Why Buyers Buy, When Sellers Stop Selling

It’s 10:00 am, Jill walks across the lobby to greet Sam Stephens the OR Director at Green Hope Medical Center. As they make their way through the hospital toward Sam’s office, Jill compliments Sam on the recent announcement of Green Hope Medical Center marking U.S. Today’s Best Hospital list for the first time.


As they reach Sam’s office, Jill takes a seat, then reaches for her iPad to show Sam how her company’s products can help Green Hope remain on the cutting edge of technology. As Sam nods, Jill hits the play button on the new marketing video showing the integration of VascoTech’s latest laser in the hands of skilled surgeons.


At the end of the meeting, Jill asks Sam to suggest a next logical step. Sam advises Jill that he will email her within a few weeks. Jill spends the next three months trying to schedule a follow-up appointment with Sam.


Does this scenario sound or feel familiar? If you are like most sales leaders, 80% of your sales team exhibits this type of behavior on their sales calls. In fact, 87% of customers believe sellers are focused on their own products, services or solutions rather than the buyer’s needs. This statistic provides insight into the misalignment between what the buyer wants and what the seller wants to accomplish.


What Do Buyers Buy?

As adults, we are hardwired to take action to avoid a consequence or resolve a problem yet sellers often focus on what they believe are the benefits of their products and/or services based on undefined needs. This is the common point of failure in product-focused selling. Numerous studies show buyers don’t want to be sold, they would instead progress through the early stages of the buying process by conducting their own independent research and involving the salesperson in the later more critical stages of the process. On the other hand, sellers are encouraged to be involved early and often throughout all phases of the buying process or journey. This creates misalign and a conflict of interest from the buyer’s perspective. If we are honest, we’ve all been there before – whether it’s the determined kiosk worker in a mall or the persistent solicitors who interrupt our schedule. As the buyer in these scenarios, we don’t want to buy a product. We are only interested in solving a problem or avoiding a consequence on issues that matter, at that moment.


So why is it so hard for many sellers to remain focused on the customer and their needs?

There are two critical factors driving seller behavior – time and performance goals. Sellers face two uncontrollable opponents every day of their selling career. The first is time. Time is one of the most elusive components of a seller’s day. While they may be able to control certain aspects of time, sellers are also fighting a battle for time. This battle for time spans across every area of the business – time on their clients’ calendars, time to plan, time for internal deadlines, the list goes on and on. Second is the performance. Salespeople tend to live in 30-day cycles of performance. It has been said, sellers are only as good as their performance which is a daunting and overwhelming definition. Every action or inaction has the potential of impacting a seller’s ability to attain performance quotas or metrics. This creates a driving need to be in “sales mode” in every opportunity or engagement. When combined these factors arguably make the role of a salesperson one of the most challenge professions in business.


How Can Sellers Stop Selling?

The key to shifting perspectives as a seller, or a coach to a seller, is to become focused on the critical goals and metrics the customer is being held accountable for in their role. Here’s the hard truth- if your customer doesn’t clearly understand how your product, solution or service helps them to avoid a consequence or solve a problem, you are not likely to be successful. Equally as important, if your customer, doesn’t value the outcome of solving a problem or avoiding a consequence you will be viewed as a commodity. This typically creates the “lowest price” wins scenario.

Here are four strategies to help your sales organization focus on the buyer:


Inquisitiveness is better than questioning– the average customer meets with 3 sales representatives per day on a weekly bases. Unfortunately, they are continuously asked what they perceive to be low-value questions focused on providing information to help the seller do his/her job (sell the customer something). Inquisitiveness is the essence of asking questions about the affairs of others. It requires the salesperson to invest their time in researching and uncovering specific details that impact the customer. While I am an advocate of questioning models as a foundation for new sellers, customers are just exhausted from answering questions that only serve the seller’s intentions.


Complete the Triad– for centuries the military has used a term entitled the triad which expresses the need to provide information three times using a specific framework- “tell’em what you are going to tell’em, tell’em, tell’em what you told them.” Not only is it memorable, it’s useful! This technique can be applied from the first attempt to schedule time with a prospect or customer, through the process of signing an agreement to move forward. When someone asks us to follow them, we inherently want to know ‘where are we going?’ Our clients inevitably want to know the same thing when we ask for their time or agreement to buy our products, solutions or services- where will it take me? 


Explore Solutions– the word ‘explore’ sounds like an engaging activity. Our research reveals that when sellers help their clients explore ways to avoid consequences or solve problems (consistent theme here), they are viewed as trusted advisors as opposed to just ‘salespeople.’ In fact, research done by SalesForce shows “79% of business buyers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to interact with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor — not just a sales rep — who adds value to their business.” This shift in the customer’s perspective encourages them to share additional goals and risks to be considered in the process of providing yet another opportunity for the advisor to differentiate themselves. The method of exploration includes walking the customer through the buying journey and sharing insights to mitigate risks and promote outcomes aligned with their goals.


What is Simple Gets Done – Make no mistake about it, as sales leaders and coaches, we recognize the challenges of implementing these strategies. There are inherent risks to getting this wrong whether in the on-boarding or recurring enablement phase. We encourage the use of immersive learning experiences to ensure your team is capable of applying these techniques in a relevant, realistic and safe environment at first. After all, you only have a few opportunities to set yourself apart from the competition.


How would you apply these principles to Jill’s interaction with Sam at Good Hope Hospital? Join the conversation by sharing your comments and thoughts below.


Together, let’s simplify selling so your team can achieve its goals!

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