What If Buyers Were Better Buyers?

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Buyers struggle doing their “jobs” ……buying! We poor sellers struggle, if it weren’t for these inept buyers, selling would be so much easier. Just reflect for a moment. We know 60% of committed buying processes end in no decision made. For those that make a decision, we know there is a high level of decision regret, particularly with those who have rep-free buying experiences (Thanks to Hank Barnes’ research). And we know the buying process is complicated, going through starts/stops, wandering, shifts in priorities/directions. Just remember the old Gartner “spaghetti chart.”

We spend billions in teaching sellers how to sell, endless training on products, more sales skills training. And we layer on more content than anyone could reasonably consume.

Sellers are selling as hard as they can! Activity levels are skyrocketing–more emails, more dials, more meetings, more demos, more proposals! But buyers aren’t pulling their weight. They aren’t buying–or it’s a real struggle for them. As a result, only 41% of sellers are making their goals.

Selling would be great if it weren’t for these buyers that don’t know how to buy!

It seems the solution isn’t to make sellers do more, increasing volume and velocity. Perhaps the solution is to help customers buy more, more effectively!

But what does this really mean?

It turns out, the toughest parts of buying is not solution selection, per se. It turns out they struggle with change.

First, it’s identifying the need to change, understanding there might be a better and more effective way for them to achieve their goals. Helping them understand the consequences of doing nothing and committing to make a change is a huge challenge for them.

Second, they struggle with the change process itself. They struggle with identifying what they need to do, defining their goals, helping them understand questions they should be asking, who should be involved in the buying process, identifying what others have done–how they have managed the process, how they manage risks, mistakes they have made.

They aren’t solely focused on buying, they have their day jobs. Plus, everyone involved has differing priorities and agendas. Aligning everyone around the same goals, developing and maintaining consensus, defining and managing the project plan.

They probably have never done this before. They don’t know what they should do and how to do it. They struggle through the process, which accounts for some of the failure to complete the process.

Then there’s the fear of messing up. Are they doing the right thing? If they haven’t done this before, how can they make sure they are successful?

Let’s face it, in complex B2B, buyers suck at buying!

Regardless how great we are at selling, if buyers continue at their current rate, we will struggle to hit our goals.

High performing sellers recognize this problem. They recognize the key challenges buyers face have little do to with product selection. In reality, any solution probably will succeed. The real issues are primarily customer uncertainty, fear, inexperience, and challenges within their own organizations.

Perhaps the best thing sellers can do to solve this problem is to focus less on what they sell, but more on helping the customers more effectively and confidently identify and manage these change processes.

But this entire skills very different than product knowledge. We have to understand the customer’s business, markets, challenges. We have to have conversations that are meaningful to them and how they work. We have to incite them to change, help them manage their own internal processes, help them make sense of what they face, finally, making sure they are confident in their decision and successful in implementation.

The real challenge is how we help customers become more confident buyers.

Afterword: Thanks to Matt Heinz and Alice Heiman for provoking this!

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