- As their environments become more complex, it is more difficult for clients to make good decisions.
- Some decision-makers, decision-shapers, and stakeholders need more guidance from insightful salespeople.
- It’s negligent not to lead your prospective client through their buyer’s journey, ensuring their success.
There is a lot of data around the changes in buying and selling, little of it offering good news for salespeople. CEB (now Gartner) claimed years ago that buyers are fifty-seven percent into their decision before they decide to speak with a salesperson. Forrester has published a similar data point more recently, finding that fifty-nine percent of buyers would rather do research on their own than talk to a salesperson who will “push their agenda,” further evidence that the legacy approaches to professional selling are not evolving fast enough.
A lot of that data leaves out context that would provide greater clarity and improve the ability for salespeople to understand what buyers need (which is not always what they want). Some years ago, I asked Brent Adamson, author of The Challenger Sale, about the fifty-seven percent stat, a number that was promoted on social media with the idea that “no buyer wants to talk to a salesperson” until they reach that point. Adamson recorded a video encouraging salespeople to get to the client when they are zero percent into their decision. For our purposes here, I would suggest a Year Zero approach.
Some of us tend to buy the way that we sell. Recognizing that we lack knowledge and experience, at least as it pertains to the decision we are making and our eventual purchase, we look for people who can close those gaps for us. We generally buy from someone who we believe did the best work helping enable the decision most likely to provide the result we want. It is possible to work with a skilled, conscientious salesperson and still get buyer’s remorse. But buyer’s remorse crops up far more often when you didn’t get the help you needed to close your knowledge and experience gaps.
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Different Buyers Need Different Approaches
All buyers can benefit from professional insight, but their different levels of experience call for different approaches. For example, a buyer who has bought a product or service like yours a half dozen times may have a good understanding of how to make the decision, having learned from their failures what they need from a partner. This is not to say that such buyers wouldn’t be better off with a consultative salesperson’s help, only that they have enough knowledge and experience to form a good idea about what they need. My hunch is that the fifty-seven percent statistic is based on these types of buyers, especially those in big companies.
By contrast, a buyer who has never bought what you’re selling lacks both the knowledge and experience they need to make an informed decision. This buyer may do research, but they would improve their decision-making by speaking to a consultative salesperson who can help them make the decision. If we plotted purchase experience on a line, first-time buyers might be all the way to the left while highly experienced buyers might be all the way to the right. Your buyer is somewhere on that continuum, and it is your responsibility to help them make the best decision.
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You, Your Buyer, and Negligence
Your inexperienced buyer can very easily use Google to find information about a business, an industry, or a company, or an answer to a problem. There they will find an overwhelming amount of information, enough to give them some knowledge without the wisdom to sort or interpret it. Knowledge is important, but it isn’t the same as situational knowledge, the experience that makes one an expert in their field. A business student might read about entrepreneurship all day, but the real test is actually launching that first lemonade stand.
Your experienced buyer can run the same query as the inexperienced buyer, and their experience can help them make sense of what they find online. But if a person is making the same buying decision for the sixth time in nine years, one of two things is a safe bet. First, they might not be making a good decision on their own. Second, their business is changing so fast that they need to continually change what they need from a partner.
The good news is that you can help with both those problems. If you are not leading your prospective client to the better results they need, you not only make their journey more difficult, but you also allow your competitor to step in and lead them instead.
Do Good Work
- How much help are providing your client as they make decisions about their business?
- Are you controlling the process, ensuring your prospective client has the conversations that would enable a good decision?
- What must you do to ensure your client’s success?