- I don’t believe that most buyers have a linear process. Just like your sales process isn’t linear, and just like you might go over the same ground a few times, your buyer’s process isn’t a straight line from point A to point B, even if we sometimes illustrate it that way to teach some point. If your buyer does have a linear process, it doesn’t benefit you, and probably doesn’t benefit them as much as they believe it does.
- There is no way to determine how far a complex organization is into their buying process. I don’t believe suggesting that buyers are 57%, 65%, or 117% into their journey matters very much. The general idea that buyers are more informed is a fact. But every company has a different process, and especially when consensus is needed, it’s messy. The number 57% is no better than the 75% number you use in your sales force automation software to forecast a deal after you make your presentation (you don’t win 75% of those deals).
- Except for professional buyers, I don’t believe that most stakeholders are spending a lot of time on the Internet researching whatever it is you sell. They’re busy doing their work, and they’re doing so under greater pressure and with fewer resources. If you are professional enough to call and schedule an appointment, it’s likely that they haven’t seen your website. I believe Google’s ZMOT (Zero Moment Of Truth) is more applicable to consumer sales than complex business-to-business sales.
- Buyers don’t need to work very hard to find help buying what they need. You aren’t likely lucky enough to work in a market where you have few competitors. It’s more likely you work in a crowded market where a lot of good people and good companies sell what you sell. Do you ever feel that you are being commoditized? Your buyer need only wait fifteen minutes and she will receive a call from one of your many competitors.
- Information is only part of what a buyer needs when they explore change. When decisions are large, expensive, complex, and risky, the human aspects of a deal are more important than information, especially information that can be shared on the Internet. Things like trust, caring, other-orientation, collaboration, likeability, and cultural fit matter more than information.
- Most business-to-business sales organizations withhold their insights and share information. Buyers can find a lot of information. But go and look at a large business-to-business sales organization’s website and see how well they fare when it comes to sharing their special insight, the insights and ideas that differentiate them from their competitors. You are far more likely to hear your dream client ask you, “What makes you different?” than “I looked at your website and couldn’t believe how different you are from your competitors.”
- Even in situations when the buying organization has a process being led a professional buyer, the buying organization still wants to meet with the people they may be working with. Anecdotally, I have twice in as many months seen the buying organization extend a one-hour meeting to something greater than two and half hours because they had so many questions and the sales team they were speaking with was creating so much value.
- In my experience (and it’s not only my experience), I don’t see any sales organizations that suffer from being understaffed and unable to handle the number of dream clients beating a path to their door. But I almost invariably see sales organizations that need more opportunities in order to reach their goals. If buyers are doing research, discovering their own needs on their own, developing their own options, and resolving their own concerns, then why aren’t more phones ringing.
- If buyers no longer need salespeople, then there is no reason for the popularity of methodologies like the Challenger Sales, insight, business acumen, or situational knowledge. Instead, they should be disrupting themselves. Their first step onto the buying journey would be recognizing that the status quo isn’t good enough, understanding what new results are already available to them, and searching for potential partners. No doubt this is sometimes true. But in your experience, how easy is for you to weaken the status quo when you have the knowledge and resources to do so? How good is your company at initiating major change initiatives? Why isn’t every company you call on already aware of what they might be doing different to produce better results?
- The greatest reason your buyer knows so much about what you sell is that they have purchased what you sell enough times to know that they want and how they need you to deliver it to them. They’re sophisticated buyers because this isn’t their first rodeo. They’re looking for new ideas, and they’re looking for someone who can deliver better results.
This is not say that data isn’t important or that it isn’t useful. It’s not to say that there isn’t some seriously valuable lesson to be learned from research and surveys. Undoubtedly there is some truth to the ideas that the people who buy whatever it is you sell now have access to more information.
I wouldn’t take these data points to mean anything other than you should urgently nurture your dream client so as to become known as someone who can create value, rush to pick up the phone and call and schedule appointments to meet with the stakeholders who care about what you sell, and spend as much time as you can developing the chops to become your dream client’s trusted advisor.
Oh, and you might want to do these things if you believe your dream client is 37%, 47%, 57%, 65%, or 111% through their buying process.