Selling is difficult. We have to find opportunities for our products and solutions. We have to assess the customer interest in considering our solutions. We have to understand what the customer is trying to do and demonstrate how our solutions are the best in helping them achieve their goals. We have to be aware of the alternatives the customer considers and position our solutions favorably. We have to move the customer to a decision, hopefully culminating in an order.
This process can take months for very complex solutions. Dozens of people may be involved in the process. Buying is disorderly–where we know what to do step by step, customers back up, shift, stop, restart, and change through their process. And a majority of buying projects end with nothing being done.
Managing a single customer buying situation is challenging, but we have our entire pipeline that we have to manage. We can’t work on just one opportunity, we have to pursue enough opportunities to enable us to make our goals. Since we won’t win every opportunity and customers will fail to make a decision on lots of opportunities, we have to chase a lot, hoping we win enough to achieve our goals.
I’m exhausted just writing these few paragraphs, but think of the work that’s involved in making this happen.
We do have some advantages in doing this work, we’ve done it before—lots of times. We have a lot of experience in working on these opportunities. We tend to do the similar things over and over–so much so that we have our standard presentations, pitches, demonstrations. We have an array of tools and content specifically focused on helping us execute these activities over and over.
But what about the customer side of this process? What about the buying side of this journey?
If the selling activities seem difficult, imagine the customer side of things.
First of all, buying is not their only job (selling is our only job). In fact, it’s a distraction to their core responsibilities. The customer has to continue to do their day jobs while they are simultaneously trying to buy.
Then, most buying only happens when people need to make a change. Something they are currently doing isn’t working as well as it might–they may have problems. Or they may be something new or different, something they have never done before. As a result, there may be anxiety and uncertainty. They may be under tremendous pressure from management to fix a problem and improve performance or to capitalize on a new opportunity. And if they fail, the consequences might be very severe.
Next, this isn’t something they do every day. In fact, it’s something they may try to avoid–after all change is difficult. They struggle to understand the issues, to determine what they might want to do. They may not even know what they should be looking at or the questions they should be asking themselves.
Then, there are all the people that are involved in the process, each having their own views, priorities, and goals. Herding cats seems trivial to aligning the buying group.
Then there are the constant shift in organizational priorities and strategies. New things arise, which divert the buying group. People come and go, so there is constant shifting and rework.
And then, there’s the information overload! Where in the past, it may have been difficult finding information about the problems and alternatives to solving the problems, now buying groups are overwhelmed–much of it good, some of it distracting, all of it confusing. What should they focus on, what is meaningful, what are might the buying group be missing?
Then there are the vendors to manage, many not very helpful because they don’t understand the customer, their business, and what they are trying to achieve. They tend to focus on promoting their solutions, but not bridging those solutions to what it means to the customer, what the risks might be, and how to manage them. So the buying group has to figure this out for themselves–even though it’s something they probably have never done before.
And, again, there is their day job and the worry about, “What if we make a bad decision? What if what we do is wrong–or not the best thing for us to do?
I’ll stop here, you get the point.
Selling is tough, I don’t want to take away anything from the work sales people need to do to achieve their goals. But it’s something we have done for some time, we know what to do, how to do it, and who to work with. We can leverage and improve on our past experience.
But, it seems to me, the really heavy lifting is with the buyers.
It should cause sellers to think, “What can we do to make it easier for the buyers? How can we help them manage the process, the change, the risk, much more effectively? How can we help them make sense of everything that’s happening?
It seems if we can help reduce the heavy lifting the customer faces, we can more easily achieve our own goals.
Perhaps that’s what we mean by win-win?
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