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What If You Sold What Customers Wanted To Buy?

by David Brock on September 14th, 2011

We know what we want to sell.  We’ve ben trained, we have all our brochures and presentations.  We struggle and pitch.  We have the killer solution, the customer seems to like it.  We’re very close, but we struggle.  The customer just isn’t buying. We seem to be stuck.

I see this often.  A client was struggling with a big proposal.  There seemed to be a huge gap in what the customer was willing to pay for and what was being proposed.  The client was struggling, it seemed to close the deal, they’d have to discount very significantly.  In reviewing their proposal, I discovered there were a number of components to the solutions.  I asked, “why are you proposing all of these things?”  The response was, “We always propose a complete solution, it usually involves all of these components.”  I asked, “Does the customer want all of these?”

Upon sitting down with the customer, they learned some of the elements of their proposal weren’t important to the customer.  Almost through habit, the client had included these elements because the always had.  Eliminating them would still enable the customer to achieve their objectives and get the proposal into a pricing level that was acceptable.

They talked to the customer about eliminating some of the components, repackaging their solution in a way that more closely fit the customer objectives.  My client still felt the customer would get great value from the components they had eliminated, but they agreed they could reexamine this in the future.  Very quickly, they came to agreement, the deal came together, there was no discounting, just a change in the solution — better fitting the customer needs and priorities.

Recently, I experienced the same thing with one of my clients.  I had done all the discovery, I had put together a proposal, it was well justified, the client seemed to be reacting positively, but seemed hesitant to move forward.  “I’m not sure I want to invest in all that right now?”  The client understood the justification, but just was hesitant.  I was struggling, I didn’t know how to move forward.  Almost as an afterthought, I asked, “What do you want to do?”  I think I meant about the potential project, instead the client responded, “I want to do items 1, 2, 3, and 5.  I want to hold off on doing 4.”

I realized I had become so fixated on what I had proposed, that I had drifted away from the client’s priorities.  The solution became very simple, we eliminated item 4, and agreed to move forward quickly in the project.

It happens to all of us.  We work with the client, we do our discovery, we put together a proposal and we get locked in.  We’ve decided what we are selling and become blind to what the customer wants.  We interpret customer reluctance incorrectly.  We start thinking, “do we have to discount to get the deal.”  We rarely revisit things with the customer, “do you want to buy what we are selling?  What if we sold you something different?  What if we changed our proposal to what you want to buy?”

I think this happens more than we recognize.  We do a great job in understanding customer needs, we put together solutions that address those needs.  Somehow at that moment things get “locked in.”  The process stalls, we’re so close, but we can’t seem to move forward.  We start to think about the “D” word (discount).  Both the customer and we struggle.  Sometimes we end up not doing the deal, sometimes they choose something else, many times nothing happens.

It’s amazing how the question, “What do you want to buy?” can be so transforming.  So often, it’s the single thing that allows both the customer and us to shift our perspectives, to stop being “locked in,” and move forward.

Do you have a deal that’s stuck?  Are you and your customer almost there, but can’t get further?  Consider asking the customer what they want to buy, then sell tham that, not what you decided what you would sell.

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