As sales people, we want to make it easy for our customers to buy. We have endless amounts of data sheets, cases studies, presentations, and information about our products. We seek to be super responsive to our customers’ informational needs, immediately burying them with information, conducting endless demos to respond to their questions.
Marketing helps us, both with the content and making vast arrays of information available through multiple digital and non-digital channels. They leverage SEO, online advertising, drip campaigns and any number of techniques to make it easier for prospects and customers to find information about our products and services.
We even provide buying tools—configurators, shopping carts, and others to help make it easier for our customers to execute the buying transaction.
All done with the goal of making it easier for the customer to learn about and buy from us!
Ironically, all of this actually doesn’t make buying easier!
In a new HBR article, The New Sales Imperative, the folks at CEB discuss this.
First, these activities focus on the vendor/solution selection process. This is actually a very small part of the work customers are going through in their buying/problem solving journey.
In fact, based on the CEB research, we are only making the easiest part of buying easier—but doing little to help them with the parts of buying that too often derail buying processes, resulting in No Decision Made!
Unless our customers are buying these solutions every day, they struggle with knowing how to buy, not what to buy.
They struggle with aligning the 6.8+ people involved in the buying process—each has different priorities and agendas.
They struggle with defining what they want to achieve, what should they be looking for, why? They struggle with defining risks, understanding and evaluating alternative approaches, gaining internal and management support, building business justification.
More importantly, “buying” is usually just a small part of what they are doing—fundamentally, they are trying to solve business problems or address new opportunities. These usually are far more profound, buying becomes just one component of their overall problem solving process. This “Customer Problem Solving Journey,” is far more difficult than just the buying portion of that journey.
As the article by CEB points out, if we want to make it easier to for our customers to buy, we have to focus less on product selection but more in their buying process (and problem solving process.)
While our customers struggle with this, since they don’t buy every day, we are expert at that process, after all, we are involved in countless similar deals. We have worked with customers addressing these issues in the past. We have great experience in helping them learn, what they should be doing, why, what they should be asking themselves, how they can start aligning goals/priorities, how they gain management support.
We can provide them road maps to help them be more successful with their efforts. We can become “prescriptive,” by helping them learn from the experience of others who have gone down this path before.
We create the most value for our customers when we work with them to make the entire buying process easier, not just focusing on product selection. We create even more value when we focus on their entire problem, not just the buying component of that problem.
Make sure you read, The New Sales Imperative, it will help you broaden your perspectives and create greater value for your customers.