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The Buyer’s Process Isn’t What You Think

I watched a group of salespeople make a sales call today. The prospective clients were very engaged throughout the sales call, including the presentation (which was, thankfully, more of a dialogue). The salespeople were successful, and the buyers committed to taking the next step in the process.

While the call was wrapping up, one of the sales people ask the buyer the question: “What are the most important factors for you in determining who your partner will be for this project?” The buyers both sat quietly for a minute and look at each other. Then, the more senior of the two buyer said, “You know, we really don’t know what factors were going to use to decide.”

This isn’t the buyers first time making this purchase. This group of buyers has a very good idea of what they need. There is plenty of information about this particular product available and easily accessible on the web. Companies in their space routinely receive calls from sales people who sell this particular product regularly. Both of the buyers are smart, and they know their business.

So, are we to assume that they’re 67% through the buying cycle? Are we to assume that sales people can add no value in helping them determine what they need and the trade-offs that they might make? Are we to assume that they know as much as a the salesperson and that information and ideas are no longer useful because they know as much or more?

Generalizations are lies. Sometimes we confuse facts and statistics that we read for absolute truths. Much of the information we hear about how buyers buy is based on how consumers buy, not how complex sales are made (even if some would push for complex sales to be made transactional).

We take buyers as we find them. Despite any facts, figures, or research, we can find them anywhere along the buying journey. Working to understand where they are and how to create value for them is critical. It’s dangerous to make assumptions, especially when you could just as easily ask the questions necessary to uncover what a buyer really needs.


What assumptions do you make about what your prospects already know?

What assumptions do you make about what your dream clients value and how they will decide?

What questions do you ask to elicit where they are in their “process?”

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  • Jack Malcolm

    “Generalizations are lies”: what about this one?

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Especially that one.

  • Calvin Jirschele

    “Much of the information we hear about how buyers buy is based on how consumers buy, not how complex sales are made (even if some would push for complex sales to be made transactional).”

    In my opinion, this was the most relevant statement within the article. It is true that in a B2B environment salespeople are dealing with a very different buyer. When complex purchases are made transactional, I would become weary of the situation. Attention to detail is vital in order to describe the value of a procurement team internally, while a salesperson should be attentive to maximizing value to customers. Both departments lack the ability to perform at high levels when complex purchases become transactional.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Spot on, Cavin! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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