As B2B sellers we’ve all heard how important it is to align with buyers and help them through the buying process. Well… it is. Buyers are much more likely to buy from you if you don’t push your sales agenda on them, but rather, work with them to make good decisions on: (1) why they should buy—the business case, and (2) who they should buy from. And most all buying teams go through a similar process when purchasing, although there are lots of slight variations. The more you understand that basic buying process, the better you can lead the buying team along, help them reach the right conclusions and shorten the entire cycle.
All buying processes look something like this:
- Gather information
- Analyze the information
- Develop options
It probably looks familiar. It’s the basic decision cycle used in the military, in business, in deciding which new washing machine to buy, and deciding which restaurant to visit for dinner. Let’s not overcomplicate the buying process. It’s fairly simple. It gets complicated when buying team members are often not on the same page, working on different stages, or for different purposes. This happens all the time. And, there’s usually not a formal agenda within the team stating “this is how we’re going to decide.”
B2B sellers can make incredible gains in sales if they focus on how the buying process works, and guiding the process along, showing consideration and providing help and insight along the way. You can actually become part of the team, defining the problems, developing alternative options, and influencing the decision. And, you can speed to process along, helping the team move past resistance and indecision points.
Here are some best practices that can help you connect with buyers and align with the buying process to shorten the cycle.
Be incredibly credible
Tell your buyers, “I really want you to make the best decision, even if it’s not to go with my company.”
Of course, you have to believe it. Most top sellers do. They internalize the value their company brings with their products and solutions. They’re confident they can deliver the value. So they don’t get defensive or concerned when the buying team naturally wants to look at more than one option. Don’t resist this kind of behavior in buyers, embrace it. It’s the only real way to build trust. And, it’s a great way to differentiate from other sellers.
Talk the business case
I am always amazed at how few reps talk to their buyers about the business case (maybe they’re too busy product pitching). Ask about it. Discuss it.
“Hey Sharon, I know you guys are doing a lot of research, would it help if I started assembling a business case document for you? I think it will help give you a clear picture of the challenges and outcomes so you can make a better decision when the time comes.”
Most buyers welcome your effort in pulling together a business case. They’re usually overwhelmed with their day jobs and really appreciate the effort. Review your work with them, get them involved, and make it a collaborative document. But take on the heavy lifting. Your buyers won’t dismiss the effort you put in.
Discuss the buying process
“Bill, I know the buying process isn’t easy. I’ve worked with a lot of teams on this, and it’s never easy. I want to help anyway I can. Where is your team right now in the process?
Most buyers—especially your champions—will shoot you straight. If you come across as credible and not just a self-serving sales rep, buyers will open up discuss the situation. They’ll let you know how things are going and where the sticking points exist. Ask some good drill down questions to uncover the resistance and the buyers showing the most concerns.
Make suggestions to unstick resistance points
Use your leadership skills when necessary to help resolve concerns and get to the bottom of the issues holding things up. Don’t be afraid to suggest, but don’t be too assuming—no buyer likes a sales rep to try and direct the show—it’s a turn off.
“Shelly, I know the IT guys expressed some security concerns during the last demo. Can I suggest we schedule a separate meeting with one of our security experts to answer any questions they have. I’ve seen this work well in the past.”
When you get inside the buying team’s decision cycle you greatly increase your chances of success. It takes some good planning and work, but it’s worth it. While competitive reps are pitching products and talking about all their advantages, you’ll be inside the buying process black box with the visibility you need to overcome resistance points and speed the decision process in your favor.