By Scott Gruher, Sales Benchmark Index (SBI)

1409767643-sleepwalking-through-sales-how-vendors-ignoring-buyers-intelligence.jpgIn this post we will discuss why sales opportunities go dark.

Nothing is more frustrating for a sales person. You can’t get access to the decision maker. Your boss repeatedly asks you when the deal is going to close. Your bonus is on the line. Sales leaders have to provide clarity so their seller can advance the opportunity.

The number one reason opportunities go dark is lack of alignment between buyer and seller. An example is the seller providing pricing early while the buyer has unanswered questions.

Throughout each of these stages, a deal can fall through the cracks. This occurs when the rep pushes the buyer through the sales process. Here’s an example from each stage:

1.Meeting 1 – you discuss what the customer is trying to achieve. You talk about your company and solution set. You agree to meet again to determine requirements
2.Meeting 2 – more technical folks are involved. You talk through functional requirements and objectives
3.Meeting 3 – you nail down the scope and timeline. Leave the meeting with a plan to provide pricing
4.You answer an RFP or provide a pricing proposal
5.You wait and wait and wait…
6.Four weeks later you learn no decision was made. Nothing happened. Why not?

Root Causes of Opportunity Darkness

1. You aren’t aligned with the buyer – here are a few examples.

a.Haven’t fully defined the problem – you are solving a problem that isn’t painful. You figure that they are engaging with you, so they must understand the problem. Not really. They may just be coming to you with a symptom. You didn’t fully develop the problem and its implications. The buyer is still trying to determine if they need to solve it. You are misaligned.

b.Give pricing too early – over the years, buyers have been trained by bad sales people. They have been trained to ask for product information and a price.

Then bring it back and socialize it internally. You have to train them otherwise. Providing a product and price is the easy way out. Rushing the price quote makes the buyer hesitate. They don’t fully understand the total solution and its savings. Your price seems steep.

c.You don’t connect emotionally to the buyer – buyers will always gravitate to those they trust. If you don’t establish credibility and demonstrate empathy, they will hesitate.

d.Didn’t address the buyer’s fears – there are a lot of risks – financial, personal, operational, if something goes wrong. If you don’t make buyers feel secure, they won’t buy from you.

2. Single Threaded – you only met with one stakeholder that has any power. The other folks involved are just making sure you can meet minimum requirements. The people you didn’t meet had questions, concerns, and their own agendas. You didn’t address them. The deal was lost when you weren’t in the room.

3. Too focused on your company and product – this is a very common issue. You are getting blasted with internal initiatives. So it is natural to be focused on pushing your company’s agenda in sales calls. This leads to a lack of differentiation, commoditized offerings, and stalled deals.

The Solution

1. Individual Buyer Personas– a sales tool connected to each individual buyer. Personas force you to focus on what the individual buyer is trying to achieve. Buyer Personas contain information on:

  • Fears
  • Personal objectives
  • Business objectives
  • Metrics/Measures of success
  • How they do research
  • Who/What influences them

2. Buying Process Maps (BPM) – a sales tool that maps the decision making process used to purchase a product, service, or solution

There are 3 Main Components to a BPM

  • Buying Phase – the distinct components of the buyer process
  • Key Buyer Action – the actions the buyer is taking in the phase
  • Micro-Decision – the questions the buyer is asking. They could be asking them directly to you or to themselves

The problem with most buying process mapping is it lacks detail. At the broad sales stage level, you don’t answer all the buyer’s questions. This leads to a lack of alignment within the stage itself. Why is the buyer dark? They are trying to answer their micro questions. You are trying to complete a list of activities. When those micro questions aren’t answered, the result is the buyer going dark.

These tools will help you sell the way the buyer wants to buy. By using these tools you will appeal to the buyer’s logical and emotional needs. You will help them understand the problem in a different way. You will help them influence other internal stakeholders. Personas and buyer process maps help you slow down and think like a buyer. By doing so, you achieve alignment. Now you can move through the process together.

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