Matching Buyer’s Needs and Seller’s Activity

Are your prospects and customers are like mine?

If they are, then you know that it is getting harder and harder to sell them “added value”.

I believe it is because they have access to more and more product information up front on the web and from peers and they probably don’t want to engage a salesperson any sooner than they need to. This puts them in control of the sales cycle.

Perhaps we need to understand their process in order to find a way around this obstacle.

The chart below depicts the steps in the buying process and areas where the buyer needs help.

   

What do we know about the customer??

He is being asked to produce more in less time with less resources and getting paid less to do it.

He wants (needs) help, but not from someone who “appears” to be selling

What is the buyer’s area of need at each stage?

Planning –  Higher level decision making about business issues that need resolution.

Recognizing Needs –  Defining the specific need to be met or problem to be solved.

Search for Solutions – Buyer looks for potential solutions to the issue or problem.

Evaluating Solutions – Compares the potential solutions in terms of evaluation criteria.

Selecting Suppliers – Potential supplier list is whittled down to 2-3 possible candidates.

Commit to Solution – The contractual commitment to make the investment.

Implement Solution –  Customer introduces solution into operation.

Tracking Results –  Assessment of the solution and the supplier’s performance

                                                (Tracking always leads back to new planning)

Note:  If we enter the sales cycle to late, the buyer establishes the buying criteria (sales cycle)

Value Added Seller’s Focus – must be on long term needs, not today’s price or “the deal”

Old Protocol

Buyers used to feel (and many still do) that the sales people lacked insight and understanding and had no genuine interest in the planning process.  Therefore, sellers did as buyer’s told them and waited for the specifications and then responded

New Protocol

Today “value added” sellers are asking “how can we be of assistance if we are not involved in the objectives and strategies developed in the planning process?

Prospects are asking “how can we use your expertise and product toward solving my problem?

Knowledge (information) is the difference between need based selling and playing the price game.

A word of caution….. Be careful here – if you don’t have the competencies to get involved in the planning process you may be dismissed early.  

Organizations that seek to differentiate themselves by adding value must deliver value that the customer perceives as true value.

The following chart overlays where most salespeople spend time trying to add value.

                

Salespeople  traditionally have spent most of their time becoming “selected” as the favored supplier and did very little selling in the early stages of the “buyer’s cycle” because they were rarely invited to participate.

Buyers are now saying that the “Planning” and “Recognizing Needs” steps are the most challenging areas for them, we need to reorient our approach to selling.

In these two stages the buyers are on information overload. The seller’s role is not only to provide information, but to interpret it for them and make it relevant. This means the seller has to have a high degree of knowledge. The competencies required for this process include:

                        Knowledge

                                    Of general business

                                    Of the prospect’s business

                                    Of the industry

                                    Of the competition

                        Questioning and Listening Skills

                        Strategic Thinking

                        Conviction, Confidence and Integrity

Today’s salesperson is a “knowledge broker” more than anything else.

If your prospects and customers are like mine, stay tuned.  I will offer some thoughts on how to reorient your sales force in my next BLOG.

 

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