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Tips on Selling

Just like the Caddyshack character who wanted to catch a gopher, retailers need to think like buyers
Just like the Caddyshack character who wanted to catch a gopher, retailers need to think like buyers

Think like buyers for better sales outcomes

To sell to buyers, shouldn’t salespeople think like buyers? SUE BARRETT explains why the sales process works better from the buyer’s perspective, and four simple steps to break it all down.

In the classic movie Caddyshack, Bill Murray tries in vain to catch a gopher that is ruining the golf course. Eventually, it occurs to him, “In order to catch a gopher, you have to think like one,” which is good advice for salespeople who want to ‘catch’ customers.

Salespeople need to understand how customers buy. Salespeople know, at all times, where their prospects are in the sales cycle but they aren’t as knowledgeable on where their prospects are in their own buying cycles. If sales managers truly believe they know where buyers are in the purchase process, why do so many of them fail to put the knowledge to practical use?

Barrett Consulting head of learning and development Jens Hartmann says, “We have found that this situation is endemic in most sales forces today, many of which are obsessed about their sales process.”

Too many organisations invest millions of dollars in CRM and contact management technology and in training their salespeople on the sales process; however, this ignores that there’s a buyer at the other end whose own process is far more important.

"The buyer becomes aware they have a challenge to address. They begin defining the objectives and determine if they have the resources to achieve their goals"

Take, for instance, the step in most sales processes where salespeople must identify a buyer’s need, yet sales is not really about the salesperson finding a need. Instead, they are more concerned with the buyer recognising that a need exists, and then doing something to satisfy that need.

How important is that need in the scheme of issues facing the buyer? Does the prospect have the emotional desire to act? Is the probable solution the best alternative? What are the consequences if the need is left partially or even totally unresolved?

All these points need to be weighed up and considered. After all, the sales process dictates that the salesperson should progress to the next stage of the cycle when a need has been uncovered.

The challenge of using technology to drive sales has undoubtedly reduced the cost of sale in absolute terms; however, it has also cost many organisations in lost opportunities because of their haste to progress through the cycle. How does one close the gap between their own selling process and selling to the customer’s buying cycle without going back to square one? Firstly, salespeople need to understand the buying process. Every buyer goes through the following four steps:

Step 1: Awareness

The buyer becomes aware they have a challenge to address. They begin defining the objectives and determine if they have the resources to achieve their goals. Once they become aware that they have a need, prospects start considering options.

Step 2: Interest

Here’s where buyers look into their options. They understand there are options available but they will also factor in the risk of changing. What will happen to them if they change? Salespeople need to acknowledge that prospects have options and are also assessing risks. Any buyer will wrap up this stage by making an emotional decision to buy or reject the proposition. Salespeople who fail to understand the buyer’s priorities risk profile and options can’t get past this stage even if they have the perfect solution.

Step 3: Desire

Desire is the rational side of decision making. The customer has made the emotional decision to buy in during the interest phase and is now looking at the numbers: Can they afford it? Is there an adequate return on the investment? What are the political ramifications within the company?

Step 4: Action

The customer is emotionally and rationally ready to buy. If the salesperson has done a good job aligning the selling process to the customer’s buying process, the prospect should give a “yes”, the moment they enter the action stage.

Once organisations understand these four steps, they are ready to align their sales processes to the buying processes of their customers. This is simply plugging each step in the sales process into the corresponding step in the buying process and arranging it as logically as possible.

Salespeople should now be tracking sales progress by moving from step to step in the customer’s buying process. This means they won’t exit the stage of identifying a need until the customer recognises the need, decides to give it priority over other issues and makes an emotional decision to pursue their need further.

By making these adjustments, organisations will significantly reduce their lost deals and shorten the sales cycle as salespeople focus more of their time on prospects in the higher-value stages of the buying cycle.

Sue Barrett

Contributor • Barrett

Sue Barrett is founder and CEO of innovative and forward-thinking sales advisory and education firm Barrett and online sales education platform salesessentials.com. Learn more: barrett.com.au

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