My friend, Hank Barnes, is rethinking the buying process with a fascinating concept he calls The Advantage Factor. One of the things he discusses in the concept of “Selling Possibility.” It’s related to much of what I’ve written about Inciting Customers To Change.
Too often, sellers catch customers who are very late in their buying cycle. They’ve determined there is a problem, an opportunity, a need to change. They’ve done all the heavy lifting of trying to figure out what questions they should be asking, who should be involved, the risks, the necessity of changing. They’ve done their homework, they are now in the final phases, they are considering alternative solutions. They have let their fingers do the walking through Google, found your site and expressed interest. The sellers simply respond to the customers’ questions, trying to prove the superiority of their offerings, getting the customer to buy.
But we miss a huge opportunity by waiting for our customers to figure things out. Imagine engaging the customer much earlier.
What if we helped incite the customer to change, to realize there might be a different and better way of achieving their goals? What if, rather than focusing on selling our products, we engaged the customer by Selling Possibility?
This would change our whole relationship with the customer. Selling possibility gets the customer to re-imagine what they are doing and how they are doing it. It causes them to think differently, and this changes our engagement process. Rather than proving the superiority of our offerings, we engage the customer in a collaborative relationships focused on exploring possibility.
The conversations shift from differentiating our products, to differentiating what our customers do. Rather than focusing on creating an advantage based on our offerings, we are helping the customer create an advantage for themselves.
And this is really what they care about!
Then once the customer is thinking about new possibilities, we help them navigate that process. After all, we have deep experience in helping others navigate similar processes.
What’s it take to do this?
It’s a change of our perspective. Rather than focus on what we sell, we focus on helping the customer create advantage for themselves. To do this, we have to understand their businesses, their markets, their challenges. We have to understand their ambitions and dreams. We have to recognize the things that stand in their way or detract from their advantage.
Our conversations change, talking to the customer about these issues, helping incite them do change, helping build their understanding and confidence in navigating and implementing that change. It’s less about what we sell and more about how we help them succeed.
Why should we do this?
The short answer is it drives higher levels of our own success, and in shorter periods of time!
Think about it for a moment. We wait for the customer to figure it out by themselves, getting to the point where they are considering alternative solutions. We know, through research, that 60% of these opportunities end in no decision made—so we and our competitors are hitting our goals with the 40% that do make a buying decision.
But what about those customer that start to create that advantage, but get lost or defocused, never getting to the point of looking at alternative solutions? We never see those—even though there is an opportunity.
And what about those that don’t recognize the opportunity? What if we could get them to recognize new possibilities?
We only address the smallest part of the opportunity! Imagine how we can grow if we started working differently? What if we helped those customers who are exploring new possibility navigate the process with greater confidence? We could reduce, significantly, the no decision made. And what about getting those customers who aren’t imagining new possibility, to start the process–with our guidance.
But this is a lot of work and takes a lot of time!
Here’s the counterintuitive part. Through selling possibility, we are both more effective, but also much more efficient. In working collaboratively with our customers we are creating distinctive value and advantage. Win rates skyrocket–in organizations we see doing this, win rates are up to double what they have achieved before making this shift.
And the buying cycles are shorter! 30-40% shorter! How does this happen? We’ve all seen the famous Gartner “spaghetti chart.” The wandering buying process our customers undertake because they don’t know how to buy. The struggle, start/stop, wander. Eventually they get to a buying decision. But by helping them understand, explore, and navigate possibility, we help the customer buy more effectively–reducing no decision made, and they navigate the process more efficiently–reducing total buying cycle.
Selling is really about helping the customer imagine and commit to possibility. It is about helping the customer navigate that process, effectively, efficiently, with higher levels of confidence.
We sell possibility! We ship our solutions!