I'll play a seller, using conventional selling methods, selling something difficult to understand; you be the prospective buyer. As we go through the process together, note your reactions, how your beliefs are being challenged, what 'objections' and emotions come up for you as I try to 'sell' you. Once we're done with that component, I'll review how it would be different using Buying Facilitation; hopefully you'll be able to take that to the bank.
Here we go (and please excuse me for being a bit playful and provocative. I can't pass up the opportunity!):
As a subscriber and reader of my newsletter, you have probably garnered some understanding of the Buying Facilitation process. You have probably read Selling with Integrity, or gone to our site, or read several of the past newsletters.
So... Just out of curiosity... What's going on with your sales effort? Your sales training effort? Are you getting the numbers you want? Are you meeting your projections? If not, why are you still using that same sales program you're using? Have you thought of doing something different? What would stop you from using a new method to get better results?
You must know by now, obviously, that my methodology would bring in the best results of any 'sales' training. So why aren't you calling me and purchasing a training program?
Why aren't you buying hundreds of copies of Selling with Integrity to give to your sales people?
Here I could offer you a pitch as to why Buying Facilitation is better than SPIN or Solution Selling or Sandler. I could tell you why and how it works better - to close more sales and make your sellers brand ambassadors, not to mention give pure value-add by making your sales people true consultants to the buyer. Yadayadayada.
Hey. Maybe you're not buying because you don't believe or understand that Buying Facilitation would help your sales people be better consultants. Or bring in more revenue.
Or is it because you are comfortable with what you've got in place now? Or that you don't want to go through the change process? Or that you think you are already doing the best you can do? Or that you love your current vendor? Or is it because you think that if you add something new you'd have to throw away the huge investment you've already made in sales training?
Of course, I can handle the objections to all of the above!! I can tell you that if you are thinking any of the above, you've made an error in judgment - and obviously my job now is to dispel these objections and make you see the TRUTH - that my product will be better.......
How did that feel? What do you know now that you didn't know before? About my product? About your needs? About your choices? About your willingness to change? About what your decision team needs to notice or consider before you do anything differently?
How do you feel about being pushed into a corner? About being 'wrong' on the end of my 'right'? About feeling dumb to my being smart? About your confusion and need to defend your beliefs?
By 'selling', I end up juxtaposing our belief systems and our behaviors. Even though I set this all up 'nicely', and am willing to be your 'consultant', you know darn well that my overriding desire is to sell you my training and get you to see that using my stuff would be better than what you've got.
PRODUCT VS. NEED VS. DECIDING
Obviously, the fact that I have a 'great product' is not good enough. As a prospective buyer you'd have to figure out:
--If you are ready, willing, and able to make a change now;
--If there is anything you are actually missing;
--How to get your team to want to change;
--Whether or not to believe that doing something different would make a difference;
--What you'd want to get out of a training that's different from what you have now;
--What you would be willing to put up with to get that change;
--How your culture/company would handle a shift at this point in its life cycle.
And even if you don't mind change or the chaos change brings, you would have to convince your team to buy in to the need to do something different - and that doing something different would include an out-of-the-box buying-support method vs. a sales method.
In other words - and I know I've said this - it doesn't matter what your product is or how you sell it if the buyer doesn't know how to align the culture and buying team around a decision. And it's NOT just a decision about the problems your product solves - it's about the entire environment that holds and maintains the problem.
NEED AND PROBLEMS AND DECISIONS
Let's take a bit more time now and look at the system here.
You've got a great product. Worked hard at creating it, testing it, piloting it. You've gotten good press and your competition can't touch you.
But those prospects you've targeted - those exact people who need your product, who are suffering because they are not using your product - don't think they need you. They kindly listen to your pitches. They admit they are having problems in just the area your product handles. They even know they cannot fix the problem doing what they are doing. But they aren't buying.
What's stopping them? What's making it more viable for them to keep doing what they are doing - losing money or time or market share or employee/partner good will - rather than buy your product and solve their problem?
I've heard many, many sales folks say that the reason their product isn't being purchased is because buyers don't understand the product or why they need it; or they get confused between your product and others that perform almost-similar tasks and believe them to be comparable.
What's going on?
Sellers often think they need to educate their prospects. Call centers and financial institutions are famous for spending huge amounts of time and money in giving their reps lots of product training, believing that if they can pitch or present the features and benefits skillfully, buyers will know how to buy. Yet information does not teach someone how to make a decision (see Newsletters of 3/7/01 and 1/17/02 about the differences between information and criteria).
As we saw in my initial example, people can have all the information in the world about a product and that won't teach them how to make a buying decision if they believe that they are doing as well as they can be doing given all the factors involved.
What do you need to be doing to help them understand that they need to buy your product?
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
Let's take a look at how your prospect experiences his/her environment - those areas that you don't necessarily think about when you are selling your product.
1. it's working the way it's always worked.
People can't always tell that there is something wrong. When a software company called me recently to bring Buying Facilitation in to their call center, they claimed they wanted to become more 'customer centric.' Yet they only had an incoming call center: they were presenting a problem to their prospects by giving the prospects a one-way buying channel. It's hard to be customer centric when you are limiting the ways that buyers can connect.
2. the work environment is created around maintaining the problem.
The call center folks did not notice there was a problem; it had always been that way. All of the six sigma measurement tools and the sales teams and the management initiatives were based on this particular type of sales strategy.
Was it customer centric? Not at all. It needed to be changed - but first the client had to recognize there was a problem.
A more conventional sales approach would be to say:
"Gee. You've got a problem. Buyers can't call you back if they have questions, or if they need to go speak with their bosses before making a decision. You're cutting off a huge range of buying possibilities."
The Facilitative Question I asked was:
"How do you plan on mitigating the distance between being customer centric and having a one-way buying channel?"
This Facilitative Question offered the understanding that:
1. there was a problem that needed to be fixed and that needed several layers of management and skill to fix it;
2. they had some decisions to be made around what 'customer centric' might look like;
3. an action had to be taken in order to be congruent with their goals;
4. I was a consultant who would support them in recognizing problems and support them in discovering their own internal solutions.
5. a change means examining all the decisions - including all the peripheral areas that convene around the problem - that got them where they are, and recognizing that something's not working efficiently.
By using my expertise to walk with them in their own field of expertise, and by using a Facilitative Question to help them recognize and potentially fix the problem using their own resources, I actually taught my prospect how to notice that they were less than efficient and they needed to think differently.
If I had just told them I had a product that would help them become more customer centric wouldn't have gotten them closer to a decision.
When you are selling a product that folks don't seem to understand, it's not a problem with your product, or with your marketing material. It's a decisioning problem: how will folks know what they need to consider to be ready, willing, or able to decide to change, and having made that decision, how to choose the ways they are willing to change.
What needs to happen in their environment for them to recognize:
1. what's missing and how it got that way;
2. that they can/cannot fix it themselves;
3. the cultural/internal issues that need to be addressed in order for them to do something different and have an environment that does not get destroyed through the chaos of change.
Make no mistake: when you suggest that a prospect should bring your product into an environment that has worked very well without it, you are suggesting major change.
HELPING PROSPECTS MAKE A DECISION
I can't express strongly enough that you can't sell without a buyer (People laugh when I say that, but sales is based on selling - not having people buy!). What needs to happen to have you start considering making your sales people neutral navigators to help the client make their best decision? And I'm not talking about consultative selling.
Consultative selling does not go far enough: it only uses questions based around the problem that is solved by the seller's product. There is a whole environment/culture that has created and maintained the problem that needs to make changes before it's willing to address a fix.
I'm going to go back to my tag line, as it seems to fit here:
Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy?
It's time to become facilitators. Then buyers understand exactly how to purchase your product.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of NYTimes Best seller Selling with Integrity. She speaks, teaches and consults globally around her new sales model, Buying Facilitation.
Morgen Facilitations, Inc.