Photo by Joshua Rawson Harris on Unsplash
That buyer might have reached that point autonomously or as a consequence of a process that we, or our competition, have set in motion. Should it be us, we probably enjoy a small advantage that, unfortunately, does not guarantee us the sale.
In any case, the very key question is:
What makes that potential customer buy from us and not from competition?
The answer I propose below applies to any sale process, from an ice cream to a house, including a software solution or professional services of any kind.
The scope of application is so wide because it is based on the mental journey that buyers follow, either consciously or unconsciously.
In a schematic way, that process can be represented by the chart below:
Let's illustrate the above process with a simple example.
We need a tie for our best friend's wedding to be held in 4 days. We don't have any suitable one available in our wardrobe. Although we could borrow it, we decide to buy a new one. Next, we fine tune our preferences: price range, specific brand or unknown, style, colour, impact we want to generate on third parties when seeing the tie... We then review pros and cons of the two first options that come to mind in order to execute the purchase: internet or physical store. After making a quick check on the internet to clarify some doubts, we make the decision. We end up buying, for a higher price than planned, a modern cut tie, made of natural green silk from brand Gianni Lussotta (high tier), in a store that is located 20 minutes away from our house. We are served by a surprisingly nice and helpful salesman. After checking at home that it matches the shirt and suit very well, we dress it on the wedding day. The groom and the bride, as well as the friends with whom we share the table, spontaneously comment in admiration about the tie. Our satisfaction is complete.
We return now to the key question, why has Gianni Lussotta won this sale despite having a higher price than we initially planned and requiring a 20 minute disturbing walk for us to get it?
The answer, which in my opinion explains the success in most competitive sales processes, is the following:
Gianni Lussotta has managed to generate more TRUST (than the rest of the available alternatives) in its DIFFERENTIAL ABILITY to HELP US achieve what we REALLY sought.
Let’s take a look at this answer from the point of view of a seller (meaning us as professionals, as well as our product, service, company and brand we represent).
every purchase process represents an act of confidence between the parties. If at any point in the process the trust of the buyer or seller in each other is lost, the transaction will be truncated. Every physical, digital, advertising, etc. interaction between both parties will be generating or detracting trust on the other side. As sellers, we will have to be obsessive in our efforts to permanently build trust in our existing and potential customers.
In our example, company Gianni Lussotta, from its careful presence on the Internet, its brand prestige and the optimal customer experience built in store and online, generated in us the necessary confidence to buy from them. All touch points in the process proved to be aligned in the experience and the confidence they intended to build on us as buyers.
Demonstrate differential ability to respond:
all buyers are willing to pay more for what they trust will respond in a differential and better way to the purchase criteria that they consider relevant.
Returning to our example, we sought to convey with the tie a message of deep appreciation, of high consideration and of the importance of our friendship with the groom. It would have been difficult to achieve all of this by buying on the Internet a product that we could not see, feel and try live (and that, in case we changed our mind, did not leave us with space to react). Our safest option would lead us to a high-quality good-looking product, from a prestigious brand, available in nearby store where there was a variety of options to choose from. We also appreciated the possibility of exchanging the tie, if needed. Gianni Lussotta stood out from the rest of the alternatives considered in all these key requirements, which led us to be ready to pay more than we had initially planned.
Spirit of collaboration: selling is helping.
The first ones needing to fully assimilate this truth are salespeople. When they imbue the commercial process with a genuine desire to help, their chances of succeeding multiply. Few buyers like to be sold, but most of them appreciate help in solving their problems or achieving their aspirations.
The Gianni Lussotta brand built in us the confidence we were getting the perfect tie, even beyond our expectations. In order to achieve this the helping attitude demonstrated by the seller was key. He clearly put more effort into understanding and responding to our needs, than to selling at all costs.
Understanding what the buyer is really looking for:
There are not shortcuts: questioning and active listening are the most powerful selling tools.
To the question an average salesman in our example would quite likely ask of "wat do you need the tie for?", an immediate and valid answer would be "for a wedding". A seller with some experience would surely also probe how much we were willing to spend. To which we would have responded with our original idea (note that it means less than the amount finally paid). For this sales professional this information would be enough to go on and present a whole bunch of alternatives.
Let's see what the excellent saleswoman from Gianni Lussotta did in our story. First, her attitude showed she was sincerely interested in helping. She started off by requesting permission to ask some questions whose answers would "help him, helping us". These are some of them: "when is the wedding?” (to gauge the urgency and our tolerance for error in choosing the tie), "how important are people who get married to us?” (to understand the level of emotion associated to the purchase), "any particular reason for not wearing one you may already have?” (to identify the importance of the event to us), "what kind of comments would we like our tie to elicit from the bride and groom and other guests?” (to understand the real impact we were looking forward to making), "what do the suit and shirt look like?” (to gauge the quality, possible colours, style, etc.).
The saleswoman from Gianni Lussotta acquired an excellent understanding of what we were really trying to achieve by purchasing the tie. As a result, she was very well equipped to present to us exclusively a couple of outstanding options in terms of colour, quality of fabric, modern and distinguished style. We found it easy, natural and even reassuring to choose one of the two, despite the price.
We left the store confident that we had made a great choice. Gianni Lussotta, as a seller (professional, product, brand image, location, online presence, shopping experience...), had done an excellent job.
I conclude by summarising all of the above in the 4 suggestions I propose companies should prioritise in order to improve their sales performance. Sales teams should be the spearheads responsible for putting these ideas into practice:
1. Understand what the customer really seeks with the purchase (ultimate impact).
2. Show a genuine willingness to help (as opposed to the blatant intention to sell).
3. Explain what makes you different, and better if possible, when responding to the criteria he considers relevant in the context of that purchase (sales teams need to be well trained to make this happen).
4. Make an effort to generate greater confidence than competitors in your ability to deliver the value that the buyer wants to obtain (remembering that you only provide value when you respond to what the buyer considers necessary and relevant).
The strength and effectiveness of these 4 suggestions in contributing to the success of the sellers emanate directly from their origin: the reasoning of the buyers.
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COREangels Madrid leader & Founding partner at Talianz.