Some buyers use a spreadsheet to make purchasing decisions. They line up all of the potential vendors they are considering in the first row, and then they list all of the things they need down the fisrt column, the A-column.
Then they fill in a score for each potential supplier for each attribute and weight the importance of each attribute. It’s a logical, rational approach to buying. Except that this process isn’t really logical. It’s still subjective, and it can be influenced.
Influencing the Attributes
The reason that relationships are so important to selling effectively is that they allow you to get into the buying cycle before there is ever a buying cycle to get into. Invariably, some salesperson influences what the buyer includes in the A-column. They work with the buyer to help them understand their needs, what’s important, and what must be considered.
All the attributes might be real and important, but don’t be surprised when you discover that the salesperson that the buyer trusted enough to help them write the A-column is also the salesperson that won the deal.
Should other attributes have been considered? Maybe attributes where you and your offering would have been the clear winners? While the A-column attributes may look like rational, objective criteria, it was the trust and relationship that allowed some salesperson to influence the decision to include those attributes.
If you want a decision to go your way, you can try to change the attributes. What should be on the list? Why is what’s missing important? Why is what is on the list no longer relevant? If you can make the case that the attributes are wrong, you can influence a deal in your direction. (I hedge here because all things being equal relationships win, and all things being unequal, relationships still probably win.)
Influencing the Weighting
If you didn’t write the A-column, you’re likely behind in a contest against the salesperson that did. But you can still influence a decision in your direction. This is what we do in sales: we work on the weighting.
Each attribute has a score. But buyers have to weigh those scores. Some may weigh price as the most important factor. Others give a higher weighting to different factors, like service, fit, or solution. Your job in sales is to change those weightings.
If a buyer gives price the greatest weight, can you show them how the lower price will cost them more by producing a lesser outcome than you can produce at a higher price? This is the difference between price and cost, and if you make your case well enough, you can change the weighting from price to cost.
If your strong suit is service, can you change the weighting by showing how much money your buyer will lose by dealing with service failures? If you can show them what they put at risk, you can move a deal in your direction.
Buyers buy emotionally and justify their decisions after the fact. Your job is to help them justify their decision. You do that by helping them to choose the right attributes or by helping them to choose the right weighting.
How do you discover the attributes and components on which you are being scored?
How do change the those attributes?
How you discover the weighting? Do you make assumptions about the weighting?
How do you change the weighting?