Like a miserable plague, the educated, experienced buyer confronts and confounds us. What happened? How did buyers get better at buying than we are at selling? How can we adjust to this epidemic of enlightenment that is taking money out of our pockets? First, let's look at three ways that buyers are kicking our sales tails.
Buyers know all of our closes
Sales training evolved from techniques developed in the '70s and '80s. We learned to work buyers with the alternate choice, reduce to the ridiculous, the Ben Franklin and many more closes. My favorite old close was one I experienced recently after test-driving a new car. The salesman warned me that the car colour and model I'd driven was so popular that if I didn't put a deposit down today, it would be gone tomorrow. "Hey! That's the impending event close," I said. "If I don't buy from you now, circumstances will change and I won't be able to buy from you. That's a very manipulative thing to say now, isn't it?" At that point he asked what I did for a living and accurately guessed that I wasn't going to buy a car from him that day.
Since buyers have endured these sales ploys for decades, is it any wonder that they recognize and are irritated by them?
Once a buyer identifies a tactic, it becomes a trick. And nobody wants to be tricked.
Buyers gather information before they talk to us
My whacked-out World Wide Web theory is this - the Internet is merely an outgrowth of Consumer Reports Magazine. Think about it. Before buying, prospects can go online to look at alternatives, gather users' opinions and compare pricing. The popularity of Consumer Reports is rooted in the fact that it educates and prepares buyers. The web and our tendency to send literature first (before qualifying) are educating and preparing our buyers. Think about how many times this past month you bounced around the web or phoned for literature before you went forward with a decision, large or small.
I recently spoke to a company and noticed a man who lingered until all the attendees had left the room. He introduced himself as a buyer and said he regularly attended meetings like this to find out what to expect from salespeople. Like many others, he's a professional buyer. Companies, like his employer, are paying loads of money to train these buyers how to beat up salespeople to get the best prices. Who's training them and giving away all of our secrets? It made me think of the convicts who get out of prison and help police and consumers to fight crime by giving away their criminal insiders' strategies. We now need to be prepared to deal with buyers who are armed and dangerous.
Buyers have been trained by our bad selling practices
We've done things like push them to hurry up and buy. They respond by pushing us away and stalling. We whip out our laundry list of benefits, and then employ something like the Ben Franklin close, but we don't discover what motivates them to buy. They receive the message that we don't care and mentally mark us off their list.
Another poor selling practice is dumping loads of information on prospects without qualifying them. I worked for an executive search firm in the '80s where one of the people posted almost £1000 a month in classy, expensive literature to anyone who said something like "sounds interesting, mail me your information." The problem with these bad selling practices is they've set a weak standard for the selling environment and created a monster.
Teaching consequences to your prospects
Here's a revelation for you: You already know all about consequences, you just need to figure out how and when to apply them.
Remember when you were a small child and adults had to teach you things like don't touch a hot stove, and look both ways before crossing the street? The adults would conclude their warning with a consequence: you'll burn your hand or, you'll get hit by a car. This was meant to etch into your brain the seriousness of your mistake. Let's move forward a few years. If you steal a banana, later steal a book, then later steal a BMW, you'll awaken one morning surrounded by steel bars and a new set of friends.
Consequences reveal that the initial problem, snatching that banana, is not the real problem. The real problem is the many repercussions of that little banana grab, the eventual conclusion is a life behind bars. While that example seems dramatic, you do want to use similar language that nurtures your buyer while warning them of danger. You're going to play the adult to your child/prospect. Learn to engage in discussions that will prevent your prospects from burning their butts on the job or getting run over by the competition.
In selling, you want to talk about how the repercussions of not buying from you can damage the prospect's business in some way. Consequences might include a slowdown in sales, diminished production, angry shareholders, or serious damage to the future of the business. Your job is to point the prospect to the real aftermath of his or her unsolved problem.