28 Apr

Guest Blog: Do You Want to Sell? Or Have Someone Buy?

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew MorgenPart 1 of a 2 part series on understanding a buyer’s needs.

Do you know the difference between how you sell and how buyers buy – and why the difference matters? After a conversation with my colleague Erik Luhrs (we’re developing a Lead Facilitation pilot http://guruselling.com/) I’d like to expand the definition of ‘buying’. But first, a question:
Would you like to enter, influence, or understand your buyer’s buying process earlier in their process?

To do so, it will be helpful to better understand the differences between how you sell, and how buyers buy.


Let me start with a made-up story:

Background: Pretend you’re a sales person selling smartphones in a big box store. You know your product well and are great at selling it. When buyers come in you carefully pose questions to understand their problem and need, and then position your answers accordingly to help them choose their solution.
A buyer comes in. She has performed some or all of these by the time she meets you:

  1. She thought long and hard about replacing a phone she loved, and somewhat reluctantly decided it might be time to buy a new one; she had been resisting due to her comfort with the (limited) functionality she enjoyed.
  2. She called friends to find out the upsides and downsides of what they liked about their phones and providers, to add to her list of considerations and comparisons.
  3. She went online to gather data from what she learned from friends and ads she’d seen.
  4. From her thinking and online research, she put together her list of buying criteria she’d need to have before being fully comfortable with any change: the pluses and minuses of changing phones, functionality, models, and/or providers; the ease of learning a new phone. Also, she included the trust factors she’d need to consider for new providers.
  5. As per friends’ advice she contacted her current provider to learn of any deals for the models she was considering; she looked up prices on Amazon, Best Buy, etc. to compare prices and functionality. She weighed all of her criteria and made a decision.
  6. Choice/decision made, she went to the store to purchase the phone with the help of the seller.

Until Step 5 this buyer had not fully defined her problem or her complete set of needs (some of which having nothing to do with a specific solution). Understanding the specifics of her problem or one phone over another was only a portion of her many decision criteria.

Until Step 5, her activities were idiosyncratic, criteria-driven, not fully formed, and independent of a specific solution, and included other ‘decision makers/influencers’ (her friends).

If a seller had entered before Steps 5, asking about needs would ignore some of her most important decision factors and not address her ability to define her personal criteria, not factor in her friends’ recommendations, or her ease and resistance to anything new as per her current phone.

To summarize, by the time this customer shows up to buy, she has

  • gone through an idiosyncratic, personal discovery process
  • to  understand and get comfortable with the range of criteria she wants to meet
  • to decide whether or not to buy a new phone and
  • researched and considered all angles of  all types of solutions and providers
  • before finally deciding to buy.

To clarify jobs and roles:

Seller: meticulously understands the product he is selling; differentiates his solution and brand from the competition; works with buyers to gather data, understand needs and underlying problem, place the appropriate solution. THIS CONSTITUTES SALES.
Buyer: figures out her emotional- and values-based criteria for buying something and for making a change; figures out what, when, if to buy; gets references from friends on several possibilities; does research; contacts current vendors; compares prices and solutions. THIS CONSTITUTES BUYING.


You do some of the same things during your buying decision process. We all do. Our prospects and clients do also. No one begins at the end – the point of choosing a solution. No one (especially the more complex B2B sales) begins by knowing their full landscape of considerations. Usually others are involved with defining the full range of unique criteria. Always, there are hidden aspects of historic considerations that come into play. And all this must happen well before defining solutions. That means buyers cannot know the full complexity of the problem or need at the point sellers usually attempt to gather information.

I would hereby like to (re)define the term Buying Decision (a term I coined in 1985) to mean: The process a buyer goes through to get their ducks in a row to manage all of the factors involved prior to, and including, making a purchase.

Is there a case to be made for assuming all buyers – regardless of the solution they seek – go through some form of ‘Pre-Sales’ decisions? That Steps 1-6 (there are 13 steps in B2B sales) are part of the Buying Decision Path – and not just step 6 in which the sales person and specific solution are involved?

Is there something to be gained by entering and influencing the Buying Decision Path before buyers have clearly defined their problem? If so, the sales process is not the best way to begin: it limits sales people to finding those buyers who have gone through their pre-sales processes already.

Part 2 (next week) explains what happens when we sell too early, and introduces a way to facilitate each stage of the pre-sales, criteria-based buying decision path. Right now, sellers close approximately 5% of their prospects (starting with first call) because the sales approach is directed toward understanding problems and placing solutions before they have been fully formed. But we can get much better results by entering earlier. We just can’t do it with the sales model alone.

Go to Part 2


I’ve developed Buying Facilitation®, which is an add-on to the sales process to help buyers understand and collect their pre-sales decision factors. It includes a different set of skills than sales, including Listening for Systems, and uses a new form of question called a Facilitative Question. Contact me to discuss training, coaching, and consulting: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. Or read Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell at www.dirtylittlesecrets.com or Buying Facilitation®. Or read my newest book What? on how to hear others without bias: www.didihearyou.com.


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08 Feb

Waiting for better times?

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THE most common objection our sales executives (that’s the two of us) receive from a potential customer is:

I know what you’re going to say (nervous ha ha) because it doesn’t really make sense (nervous ha ha), but we don’t have the time to do this right now even though we realize how much time it will save us. (uncomfortable smile with eyes staring at shoe laces)

One thing is clear: 95% of the time, that’s not the real reason. (But not to worry dear potential clients; we understand that you are not beholden to us to explain your real reasons – though that would be much more helpful for all of us)

Another thing is also clear: 95% of the companies we contact need our services like a fish needs water. This is not as subjective as one might think. But before we tackle that, let’s focus on where we fail when we fail.

There are five main reasons why we get the “We don’t have time” response:

1) Our value proposition was not clear enough

2) Our value proposition was not focused directly on their current needs

3) Our value proposition did not reach the right decision-maker

4) We strayed from our value proposition

5) Some or all of the above

So it’s not that we’re dumb, we just need to improve. Of course, knowing what to improve upon helps a great deal.

I can say that I know this with great confidence because, on average, we return one hour per day per employee back to the organization we provide our services to – with just one of our services. AND we do it in two to four hours.

Every company has their own priorities, and I can’t go around changing those. But if we look at it squarely and do the math, one would be very hard-pressed to find anything on the market that can save a company 10-12% or more of its knowledge worker cost for under $500 and within half a day. Time-savings is just one of the value propositions (the easiest to illustrate quickly), but I do not wish to digress.

This means for less than the cost of a day’s work an organization can save over 20 days – per year!

And so what?  Maybe I should have pitched increased efficiency or 46% decrease in stress or the 95% adoption rate after 6 months, or something else that THAT Particular customer wanted to hear.

So let me cut to the quick and offer my two cents about what I believe to be true in service selling:

It’s not price.

It’s not time.

It’s not budget-timing.

It’s not whether you wear a red tie or a blue tie or no tie at all.

Most of the time.

(By the way, I’m assuming that you show up on time and have an outstanding service etc.)

It’s about understanding the value proposition from the perspective of every individual decision-maker.

If you’re good, you can sell tea to a coffee drinker, wine to bud man, Mahler to a Boss fan at exactly the wrong time for them to buy (according to someone who doesn’t understand the value proposition the way she or he does).

In the end, it’s knowing your customer’s dream; figuring how your product fits in to their dream; collaborating with them on understanding the dream of their team or their superior(s); figuring how your product fits in to their collective dream; getting them all to nod their heads in unison with the thought of having their dream fulfilled and knowing when to close. That is sales.

It’s not about waiting for the merger to be complete or the next budget period or the 17th reorg.

And I learn it all over again every day.

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