Shared collaboration and learning brings together the individual customer stakeholders to focus on a solution that is in the best interest of the enterprise.
Many of us in Sales and Marketing have heard that customers are 57% of the way through their purchase process by the time they engage a sales person. Some analysts even raise the percentage to 90%. Sales people used to hold all of the cards because they were the keepers of the information buyers needed. Those days are long gone and never to return.
To complicate matters further, and as pointed out in the March 2015 issue of The Harvard Business Review, in the article titled “Making the Consensus Sale“, an average of 5.4 people now have to formally sign off on each purchase. Each has her/her own priorities that are probably not the same as the other 4.4 people involved in the decision. Many of the priorities may be in direct opposition.
Most sales people are told to always be closing. This is the ABC of sales – Always Be Closing. Closing the sale is the objective over everything else including the overall satisfaction of the client or the effectiveness of the solution. You need to seek out the decision-makers, find out what is important to each and convince each person that your product solution meets her/his needs the best. Only by winning the support of each sponsor and key stakeholder by meeting her/his specific needs can one hope to secure the signature on the contract. Oh, the glorious signature on the contract that generates the commission check that comes before everything else.
This mode of thinking, while commonplace not too very long ago, is so individualistic that it is hard to believe it is still being promoted. Individualistic in that it is focused on the sales person closing the sale and individualistic in that it is focused on the individual needs of the decision-makers over the collective needs of the enterprise. As the HBR article states, “Most suppliers are focusing on the wrong stage of the buying process, falling all over themselves to persuade customers to choose them, rather than helping customers settle on a solution.”
To truly help companies, we need to slow the sale down. While a QUICK YES is music to the ears of most sales execs and the companies they work for, I argue that it is not in the best interest of the buyer or the seller. It probably means that the proper consensus has not yet been built among the individual customer stakeholders in order to connect the stakeholders to one another.
Shared collaboration and learning brings together the individual customer stakeholders to focus on a solution that is in the best interest of the enterprise. It also allows each person to voice her/his specific needs and priorities in order to work through real or simply perceived conflicts. Product and service providers that are truly interested in their customer identifying the best solution should be willing to advocate a more collaborative process even if a QUICK YES is provided. Spending time on the front-end of any decision to educate the company on the options available supports the success of both the supplier and their customer.
Are the companies you buy from willing to slow down the sale down? Are they willing to spend time at their expense to educate and collaborate with you rather than seek the QUICK YES?