Buying Is Broken! What’s This Mean For Selling?


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Report after report tell us that buyers are failing in their mission to solve a problem and buy a solution. We know 60% of committed buying efforts end in no decision made. For those remaining 40%, a huge percentage of them express regret. It doesn’t take much of a leap to recognize Buying Is Broken!

Despite this, sellers keep their noses to the grindstone. They continue to do the same things they have always done, and if they don’t get the results they need, they do more–faster. (At the behest of their managers, for whom, “more” is the miracle cure for every performance issue.).

And we see the performance data, it shows that despite doing more, fewer sales people are achieving their goals.

It seems, somehow, like the definition of insanity.

To address this issue, we spend a lot of time, and millions of dollars, trying to figure out how to sell better or differently. We look at new techniques, methodologies, new tools. We are trained in the latest things focused on helping us sell more, sometimes to help us be better.

But if buying is broken, fixing selling isn’t the answer!!

We have to look to the source of the problem, to the buyers themselves. We have to understand why and how they are failing and how we can help reduce that.

Failure on the buyers’ sides can be a result of many different reasons:

  • The failure to commit to making the change itself. While, hopefully, the pain of doing nothing is greater than the pain of change, sometimes the buyers don’t really understand that. Sometimes, they may not care–at least enough–it’s easier just to tough it out and hope things might change.
  • Sometimes, they don’t know how to buy. They don’t know who they need to get involved, what questions they should be asking, what issues they should understands, what they should be learning. Since they don’t do this every day, they simply don’t know how to buy. They simply don’t know what they should do or how to move through their buying process.
  • Sometimes they are overwhelmed–by choice, by information, by data. They are confused and don’t know what they should focus on.
  • Sometimes, they get lost or diverted in their buying process. Crises arise, priorities shift, their “day jobs” take priority, the buying team changes, the project needs shift, people just lose interest. It takes a lot of energy to pursue a complex buying decision, on top of their normal responsibilities. Sometimes people just get tired.
  • Sometimes, they can’t align the buying group. Everyone has differing priorities, agendas. Managing the politics, egos, and differences in opinion is difficult, particularly when the buying project is not a core responsibility. It’s easy to say, “F**k It, I’ll just do my job, who cares about this buying stuff!”
  • Sometimes, after doing everything they can, they don’t have the right senior management or organizational support.
  • And sometimes, actually a lot of times, they are worried. They are actually afraid of doing something wrong, of making a mistake, of making the wrong decision. They worry about risk. They worry about whether they will get the results they expect and have committed to management.
  • They suffer from indecision!

None of this has anything to do with what we sell! It’s all about them, their ability to navigate their buying process and their decision confidence–or lack of confidence.

However, we invest our time in focusing on our product, providing more details, more data, more demos, more testimonials. The more “advanced” might go to the business case and re-emphasizing that and the consequences of doing nothing. Instead of provoking them to make a decision, it actually has the opposite effect of making them more worried and indecisive.

We don’t fix buying by focusing on how we sell. We fix buying by helping our customers navigate the process, by helping them orchestrate the process, by addressing their fears, by helping build confidence.

Buying is broken, our customers don’t know how to fix it. As a result, they depend on our help!

Afterword: Much of this post was very loosely based on some of what Matt Dixon and Ted McKenna talk about in their upcoming book, The JOLT Effect! Go to Amazon, pre-order it, make sure you read and re-read it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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