How Sellers Can Take Control
For centuries - at least since the serpent convinced Eve to eat the apple - sellers have assumed that getting the right information about a product into the right hands would offer a good chance of a sale.
But if you look at the numbers over the years, the success rate from prospecting to close has remained the same: in general, you close approximately 7% of your identified buyer population.
One would think that with the latest technology and techniques, with what you've learned about buyers over the years, with everything from predictors to salesforce. com to technology to new sales methods, the odds would change. But, if they change at all, the differential is minimal. You're still looking at a 90% failure rate, no matter what sales method, what predictive technology, what demographic study.
What's the deal? Why is this happening? I have a theory (You knew I would, right?): sellers believe that by doing all the right things, the prospect will know how to buy.
Let me say that a different way: the basic belief is that if you give the right people the right information at the right time, presented in just the right way, and you ask the right questions to learn just the right data about them and then pitch the product data accordingly, they will know how to buy. Right?
Why have you believed that? Because you haven't known how to get into the secret world of buyers. Because you've based your sales strategies on product sale. Because you've determined that information exchange (pitching and presenting, gathering client data) gets prospects to buy. Because as a breed (and I'm one so I can say this), sellers are arrogant, and assume we can somehow manipulate the situation in just the right way to close the deal (It's a power and control thing.).
But it doesn't work, or you'd close all of the deals that you think you should close. And you don't. And there doesn't seem to be a parallel equation between how well you sell, how great your product is, how appropriate your buyer is, how much your buyer needs the product, how much money your buyer has - and how soon they come back, if indeed they do.
I train clients in many industries, from banking to technology, from consulting to cosmetics, from 8 figure deals with highly complex sales to $15 sales. It all ends up the same: the buyer buy only when they align their internal systems (beliefs, values, relationships issues, management issues, initiatives, historic events, etc.) to address the relevent decision elements, so there will be no internal disruption when they take an action.
POWER AND CONTROL
Folks learning Buying Facilitation recognize that facilitating buying decisions has a much shorter time cycle, broader prospect reach, and greater success factor than pushing/pitching/presenting product, by a factor of at least 200%. Yet I hear them say: 'But I'm used to being in control. If I'm going to help them make their own decision I'm out of control and I have to give the client too much power.'
What power and control do sellers actually have? When you're using product/information-based sales methods, you actually have control only over your product data; you have no control over the buyer's internal, hidden, buying decisions.
When using product-based sales methods - pitching, gathering problem-based data, designing 'solutions' you believe they need - you're merely guessing at all of the internal variables that need to be managed before a decision gets made: you don't live within the buyer's culture and truly have no idea how to effect change within it.
That's right. I know you hate to hear this, but you are merely guessing.
* Do you know how your product would fit into their problem space? Probably.
* Do you know how your product would take care of the problem appropriately to give them what they say they want/need? Probably.
* Do you know how the buyer's historic system created and maintain the problem that your product solves? Probably not.
* Do you know exactly how the buying decision will get made, or how the internal systems variables (people, interventions, policies, relationships) need to be managed so a decision can get made congruently, that will address all hidden, unique issues? Probably not.
* Do you know how historic decisioning procedures help prejudice current decision behaviors? Probably not.
* Do you know how relationships with current vendors or partners need to be managed so they will congruently become part of the change? Probably not.
Yet until these are all managed, buyers won't buy. In fact, when your selling patterns only deal with solving what appears to be the identified problem, you actually giving up power and control because the power in the sales relationship lies with the buyer. Sales, as it is now, is an inappropriate model to support the buying decision process.
The decision is much bigger than choosing the right product.
Let me give you an axiom: Information does not teach people how to make a decision.
While you're shaking your head in agreement, note that information is exactly what you use to get a closed deal. And that is the exact problem with the sales process. Information is being pushed in or pulled out. All, ALL, current sales methods use information as the main focus.
But if information doesn't teach people how to decide, then what does?
And, if you don't give them product information, how will you sell your product?
First of all, let me allay your fears. Buyers need product information, but they need it in Phase 2 of the sales cycle, when they've already determined how to manage, align, and address all internal elements that need to be managed before they can make a decision. Then they absolutely need information and then you can use some of your current sales techniques (although big pitch or complex presentation will be moot).
But, before a buyer can get to the point where they'll make a purchasing decision they run around making sure they handle all of the people and policies that created and maintain the problem. They will not - they will NOT - make a purchasing decision that will annoy anyone, or change anything someone deems sacred, or disrupt anything. This system discovery and alignment is Phase 1 of the sales cycle.
Information does NOT give you power or control. You want control? Lead buyers through their decision criteria with Facilitative Questions. I'm going to pose a Facilitative Question to give you some understanding of its power:
How do you know when it's time to change your hairstyle?
Let's look at this question:
1. given the wording, you cannot give me an answer about your furniture. This question, directs you to where I want you to think so you can uncover your values and decisions that ended up as a current behavior and ask you to make conscious your decision factors. Facilitative Questions, based on recognizing and managing values and unique criteria, lead the brain to the exact place it can recognize what went into a decision, and makes the subconscious conscious (and this is where decisions get made).
2. this question is criteria-based, not information-based. Otherwise it would be: Why do you wear your hair that way? Or Who gives you your haircuts? External information does not teach the listener how to begin to understand or manage their current decisions, nor get them to (re)consider their decision. The question above is based on the values that were affected when the decision got made - values and criteria an outsider would never understand (Face shape? Internal desire? Self image? Fashion? Historic data? Husband/Mother/Friend influence?).
3. the answer can only come from the listener, making the questioner the person leading the listener to a brain search. Offering information or asking a content-based question (Why do you wear that style?)does not teach you how to make a new decision, but gets you to recount decisions you've already made.
So - you want control? There you have it. Lead your buyers through their decision-making process by helping them understand all of the elements that went into helping them get where they are. And not just the people problems and initiatives that sit around the identified problem, and are plainly visible: all of the systems elements that are somehow entwined around the problem that must be managed for change to occur. Use your position as an external 'other' to help people look into places they might not have looked into on their own. In this way, you can support a new decision, while placing yourself on the buyer's decision team at the same time. Then you can become a true trusted advisor, while using true control to help others make their best decisions. The product sale will happen when buyers decide how to buy. After all, do you want to sell? Or have someone buy?
Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of NYTimes Bestseller Selling with Integrity. She speaks, teaches and consults globally around her elegant, doable sales model, Buying Facilitation.
Morgen Facilitations, Inc.