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People Don’t Like To Be Sold—But They Do Like To Buy!

by David Brock on June 12th, 2009
This is the quandary of the traditional sales person—they sell, but we all know people don’t like to be sold! What we forget about this concept is that while people don’t like to be sold, they really do like buying!

I’ll say it again–people like to buy. People need to buy to achieve their goals. A problem is that people don’t necessarily know how to buy! Solving this problem for customers is the real opportunity for sales professionals, it’s the opportunity for sales to add value to the customer’s buying process.

The role of the sales professional is to facilitate the customer’s buying process. We can do this in many ways. Traditionally, a critical role of the sales person is to educate and inform the customer. Today’s customers are much better informed—thanks to the Internet and all the resources available, but there is still a “last mile” challenge with many things so the role of educating and informing the customer is a critical function of the sales professional, the bar is just higher.

For the B2B sales professional there is a tremendous opportunity to create value for the customer by helping to facilitate their buying process. Think about it for a moment. As an example, how many times in a CIO’s or CFO’s career do they purchase and implement an ERP or Financial System? For most complex systems solutions, the buyers may only purchase a handful of times — and each buying decision is separated (hopefully) by many years.

On the other hand, the sales person goes through this cycle many times a year. In the course of the year, sales people go through this process more times than most people go through in a lifetime, we are experts in the process. We know what organizations should be looking for in a solution, we know the errors organizations can make in selecting and implementing a solution. While our view is naturally biased, we can create great value in facilitating the customer’s buying process.

How do we facilitate the customer’s buying process? It’s a few simple things, but that can have great meaning to the customer—again much is focused on educating and informing. Things like: What are the questions they should be asking—of you and of your competitors? What should their expectations of a solution be? Are they realistic, unrealistic? What are the pitfalls involved in selecting a solution? What are the things they should be considering, but not thinking about? How can they sell their management on the solution and providing budgets for it? The list can go on.

It’s pretty easy once you start thinking about it. Just get out of your “sales” role and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you were buying a solution, how would you go about it? What would you do? Share this with your customers and help guide them through the process as they execute it.

Another thing every sales professional can do is to make the process “easy” for the customer. Often, I meet with sales teams with convoluted, complex strategies to “sell” to the customer. We over think and over complicate the process–primarily because we are thinking about our competitors and not about our customers. If we just focus on making our solutions easy to buy, we will help our customers tremendously.

The role of the sales professional is to facilitate the customer’s buying process. Customers love to buy, we just have to make it easy and productive for them to do this!

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  1. Scott Baird permalink

    I recently came across one of your blog posts and I was very impressed.
    What grabbed my attention was how you stated that buyers may not know how to buy. As you pointed out in your post title, people like to buy. But it is critical to help them discover why they need to buy from you. At Griffin Hill we have a step in our sales process called the Needs Audit. At this stage we ask specific questions that create gap, and where there is gap there is opportunity. We know that the questions we ask can help prospects recognize their own needs. If they do not have an epiphany of value, discovering for themselves why they want to buy from us, we're not likely to close the sale.
    In fact, I just wrote a short blog on this very concept and have provided a link to your post. Thank you for your insight on this and please take a minute to read my post.

  2. Dave Brock's Blog permalink

    Scott: Thanks for the nice comments about my post and for your thoughtful extension of the discussion. The needs analysis/discovery phase is a critical element of any consultative sales process. We believe that deals are won and lost by the quality of needs discovery that sales professionals do.

    As a small point of clarification, I think the sales professional can add even more value in guiding customers through their buying process—in ways that the buyer may be unaware of, and which would never be discovered in a well executed needs analysis.

    Imagine, as an example, how many times a customer goes through the acquisition and implementation of something like an ERP system. Most people go through this process only a few times in their career, yet the professional selling these systesm sees the process dozens of times each year. In this case, the customer often doesn't know what they don't know. We believe the sales professional can offer great value in helping the customer navigate this process more effectively. The sales professional becomes a facilitator of the customers' buying process, going beyond the needs analysis.

    Thanks for your views, for your kind reference to my blog and for continuing the thoughtful discussion. Regards, Dave

  3. unrivalled consulting permalink

    Great as usual David. Totally agree!

    My version (similar vein):
    "People DO like to be sold to, they DON'T like to be sold AT!"

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