None of your customers is rewarded for buying things from you
The people you work with, the IT team, the CFO, the lawyers, the marketers, none of them has “buy things” in their quarterly performance goals. The only people who are even remotely incentivized to buy things are purchasing managers or professional buyers. For everyone else, buying is a distraction from their real job.
Their companies expect them to solve problems. They can solve a problem by buying what you sell, but that’s just one option. They could also buy from someone else. Or they could build it themselves. Or they could hire someone to build it, or get out of the line of business that’s experiencing that problem, or take the pain as a fact of life and do nothing but live with the problem.
Buying from you is not a requirement
You on the other hand, are committed to selling, especially if you’re in sales. Your product team is committed to building products that solve problems. Your marketing team is committed to building a brand, communicating your value, and generating leads.
Do you see the asymmetry?
Your team is committed to selling a product. The customer is in no way committed to buying anything. Even calling them a “customer” shows how lopsided our view of the world is.
Buying from you is more complicated than you think.
How do you find out how they buy? It’s not as simple as asking them. Unless they’ve bought something similar recently, they probably don’t even know. Recent research by the CEB published in the Harvard Business Review has found that “typical solutions purchase takes twice as long as
customers expect it will.” and that “65% of customers tell us that they spent as much time as
they’d expected to need for the entire purchase just getting ready to speak with a sales rep.”
We’ve all been in situations as a buyer when we were told by our company that the purchase decision was entirely ours to make. But as we got ready to make the purchase all kinds of other people became involved.
- To make a payment above a certain amount, we needed to get a PO approved.
- Getting the PO approved meant we had to fill out a form.
- Filling out the form required IT to vet the solution.
- IT’s involvement triggered an ROI calculation for the office of Finance.
- Getting the CFO involved got the lawyer cc’d on the email.
- The legal review uncovered the need for a security audit by a third party agency.
- The security team needed to see a product demo as the first step of their assessment, which essentially but us back to square one.
Sound familiar? Think back. Which of your existing customers has ever accurately laid out their entire buying process on the first day you spoke with them?
What can you do?
- Get beyond your sales process and understand their buying process.
- Lead them through their own buying process.
Surprises are unpleasant for you, even though you are committed to selling. But your buyer is not committed to buying. Which is why you can’t afford to have a surprise rob them of their appetite to buy.
Imagine that your champion suddenly finds out they have to make a presentation to the C suite convincing them they should buy your product. Maybe they’re busy with the projects they’re working on, or their car just broke down or, lets face it, they’d rather do anything else. The next call you get from them will be “Hi, yeah, you guys are great but we’re gonna put a pin in this decision for a month or so.” And the month becomes forever.
First you have to find out who will get involved on their side, what they have to accomplish at each stage, and what obstacles you need to remove to make buying from you as effortless as possible. Then get everyone to help the sales team get this done. Try a buying journey approach to get all your teams working together to solve this problem.
And keep in mind that despite all this, it’s still a pain to buy anything. Just have some sympathy for your customers. Remember that buying from you is not a requirement, and make it as painless as possible.