Late To The Party!
Ever show up to a party late? Groups have formed, everyone’s deeply engaged in conversations, the good food’s gone. When I’m late, I wander from group to group, trying to quickly understand what’s happen in the conversation and join in. Often it’s tough. I’ve missed a lot, sometimes people are good enough to repeat some of what’s going on–to catch me up, but mostly there’s a lot of missing context that makes it difficult to participate fully in the conversation.
The same thing happens very often in sales. We discover an opportunity very late in the customer’s buying cycle. Possibly they’ve been talking to competitors, they’ve been talking amongst themselves. We come in, so much has happened. If we try jumping into the conversation, we make mistakes. We don’t have the background or context to be able to contribute intelligently to the customer’s buying decision. Yes, we can respond to some questions, but we don’t have the context. Our responses may not be as strong as possible. The customer is listening to others, we struggle to be heard, for the customer to understand what we can do for them. We struggle to shift their perspectives, to get them to consider different things. So much has happened, our ability to influence things–or even understand them is very restricted. It’s tough to compete. It’s tough to differentiate ourselves. It’s tough to create value. It’s tough to win on anything but price.
Being late to the party is really tough in sales. It actually happens more frequently than we would prefer. Jumping into things in the middle is tough. We can’t just jump in, though too often, that’s just what we do. We don’t take the time to back track with customers. We don’t take the time to understand things critical to the decision the customer is making, instead just responding — to a conversation we haven’t been part of. We’ve missed the opportunity to understand what they are trying to achieve and why. We’ve missed much of the background and context. We don’t know how they’ve reached the point they’ve reached. We don’t know who’s involved and the dynamics of the decision making process. We’ve missed opportunities to shape the conversation and direction the customer may be going.
In short, while the customer has progressed in their buying process, we still need to execute our sales process. Without doing this, we don’t know how to respond in the most meaningful way. The customer is impatient, they want to move forward, so we have to execute our selling process very short time. We have to make sure the customer understands why we need to do this, even though they may be impatient to move forward. But without doing these things, it’s difficult to contribute in a meaningful way. It’s very difficult to win if we haven’t been part of the process.
Better yet, we need to engage very early in the process, helping instigate the change, or, in the least shaping their buying process and being part of the conversation through the entire process.
Perhaps in the words of Pink, the strongest role we can take is to “Get The Party Started!”
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