By Andy Paul
I attended a conference this year where it was suggested that just as customers have the ability to use social media and other forums to publicly rate their suppliers so too should sellers have a forum to rate their customers. The suggestion was offered in a somewhat humorous vein but there was an air of seriousness behind it. One of the main rating criteria for the customer that was put forth was whether the customer was a slow buyer.
Listening to this I thought more about this common sales perception that when a deal that you’re working on slows down, and loses momentum, that it is invariably the fault of the prospect. Undoubtedly there are valid reasons why a prospect will slow down the pace of a buying process. Organizational upheaval, changes in the economy and stock market, are examples of the changes that can impact a prospect’s buying process.
However, more often than not, the party responsible for a deal that stalls is the person you see when you look in the mirror in the morning. That’s right. You. Why?
First, let’s look at the buying process. There are several different perspectives on how many steps are in a customer’s buying process. Some say 4 (AIDA). Others think 5. I happen to believe that there are 6 steps in a customer’s buying process. Irrespective of the number of steps there are in your prospects’ buying process there is one hard and fast rule. The prospect will not move from one step of their buying process to the next until their information requirements for the current step are completely fulfilled.
Second, the prospect’s buying process is not monolithic. It is not a giant buying process that includes all the vendors or alternative solutions the prospect is considering. The prospect has a buying process for each solution/vendor they are evaluating.
If you aren’t providing the prospect the information they need to move through their buying process and make a fully informed purchase decision in the least time possible then your dealings with them are going to come to a halt. But that doesn’t mean that they are not continuing their evaluations of their alternatives. The beat goes on. Just without you.
A study by DemandGen and Genius.com in 2010 titled “Inside the Mind of the B2B Buyer” contained the finding that 95% of B2B customers selected the seller who provided them with ample content to navigate each step of their buying process. The real lesson derives from the inverse of their finding. Namely, that if you aren’t giving the customer the information they need to progress from one step of their buying process to the next, then you aren’t going to win their business.
Your prospect’s resources are stretched thin. Just like yours. Time is at a premium and they want to make the most informed purchase decision in the least time possible. No customer ever sets out to buy a product and service by saying “I want to take as long as possible to make this decision.” Prospects don’t want to spend 6 months to make a decision that they could make in 2 months if they received the information they required to make that informed purchase decision. Similarly they don’t set out to spend a month to make a purchase decision that they could make in one day if the seller(s) provided them with the data they needed.
If you have a deal that suddenly slows down, don’t point fingers at your customer. Do some quick investigative work. Where is the prospect in their buying process? What specific information about your product or service does the prospect need to move forward to the next step of their buying process that you haven’t supplied? If you don’t know the answer to this question, don’t guess. Call the customer and ask. Meet with the customer and do a recap of where they stand in their buying process with you. Then map out a schedule with the customer on the information and data that they will need from you to reach their decision point and agree on the timeframes when you are going to provide it. This will represent the minimum you need to do to get back into the game and stay under consideration.
Andy Paul is author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. A sought-after speaker and business coach, Andy conducts workshops and consults with sales teams of all sizes to teach them how to use responsiveness, speed and intelligent processes to increase sales. Enjoy what you just read? Sign up for our regular digest of valuable Zero-Time Selling sales tips and strategies, “Selling with Maximum Impact.”
© Andy Paul 2013