By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Does anyone doubt that B2B buyers have gotten more savvy and sophisticated? As part of that trend people that have done research and are knowledgeable about offerings rightfully expect to be treated differently than novices by salespeople. What vendors are slowly coming to realize is that traditional selling approaches conflict with how buyers want to be treated and often result in poor buying experiences.
I believe vendors are unwilling or unable (or both) to let go of the notion of “selling.” When asked to describe selling, both buyers and sellers usually will use words like “convincing, persuading and overcoming objections.” Human nature is such that after air, water, food and shelter exerting control is a fundamental need that we all have. With that in mind people would much rather buy than “be sold.”
The baggage of old selling techniques remains alive and well. If you enter a retail store to browse and learn about a sound system that you know very little about and are asked: May I help you? Most likely you will quickly respond: No, I’m just looking. Despite needing help, the perception is that sellers will try to manipulate buyers into something that results in higher commissions rather than what meets a buyer’s needs. In many cases this is an unfair stereotype, but that’s where the buyer-seller dynamic continues to be mired.
Sales is viewed as a zero-sum game. Pre-internet sellers had a huge advantage in parsing out product detailed as they saw fit. That advantage vaporized as vendors have posted prodigious amounts of information on their websites. Beyond that, social networking has allowed buyers to “trust but verify,” as they make sure vendor claims can be backed up by users of offerings.
Product pitches and “telling” are perceived for what they are: Selling. Many buyers find it to be annoying. Asking relevant questions and listening to the answers will allow buyers to express their needs and in doing so help sellers build a vision of a solution. Most sellers, however, need help in knowing the right questions to ask.
Sellers and vendors are also guilty of taking ownership for business results with phrases like: My software will reduce your receivables by 37%. In the clear light of day a seller, a product or a vendor only provides capabilities with which a buyer could achieve the desired reduction in receivables.
Sellers telling and taking ownership reflect old selling approaches and they must go. Asking and empowering buyers to achieve desired business outcomes will better align with the way buyers want to be treated today. Pre-Y2K, I often said the better seller usually wins. In today’s environment, it seems the seller providing the best buying experience will usually win.
What are you doing to align with the way buyers want to buy?