As sales people, we know what our job is. We have to generate revenue through finding customers who have a need for our solution. We do the same things day after day. We prospect to find new opportunities, we work on deals, helping the customer move through their buying process and selecting a solution.
We are constantly working with people in various stages of their buying journey, preparing for meetings, educating customers, conducting demonstrations, doing research, developing and presenting proposals.
While each situation is different, in general, the activities we do are similar. We even have processes that help guide us through the most critical activities. We do the same thing day after day, week after week. We develop routines, we become comfortable with these cadences.
Since we do the same things, all the time, we develop some familiarity with the things we need to be doing to achieve our goals.
Buying isn’t part of our customers’ jobs
We tend to attribute the same things to our customers. Because we are so familiar with working with people who are buying, because we deal with buyers every day, we tend to think our customers are a familiar with and comfortable with buying as we are.
The reality couldn’t be further from this. Buying isn’t part of our customers’ jobs (We will set procurement to the side for this discussion). Their jobs are do do other things. Perhaps it’s developing and designing new products. It may be building and shipping them. It may be running operations, or managing HR, accounting/finance. It may be keeping IT and related systems going.
Customers become expert in doing these jobs. They wake up every day and know what their jobs are, what they need to accomplish in work each day, each week.
But buying isn’t part of that. Buying is only something they do if they need to change. Buying is an exception to their day to day work. The only way buying occurs is as a part of examining and doing something new, addressing a new opportunity, solving a problem, or as part of a change process.
Buying is only something customers do if they need to change.
It is something foreign to them. Something which they don’t do often, perhaps don’t like doing. Since it is part of a change process, it may be difficult or threatening to the customer in some way.
Juxtaposing our “comfort” with selling and the customer lack of familiarity/discomfort with buying creates a huge gap in our experiences of each other. Too often, we make an error, assuming the customer is familiar with the critical activities customers go through in their change management and associated buying journey. We tend to think of them as being as experienced in this process as we are in selling.
Overlaid on this discomfort customers have with buying is something more severe–the risk they face in whatever decision they make. The consequences for sales people to not winning a deal are small. We have to make it up some other way, find another deal, close some new opportunities.
Customers have much more at risk
They are driven by some critical necessity, and failing to address this, successfully, has consequences–an opportunity may be lost. A problem may persist. A new program may be threatened. Resources could be wasted.
The reality is the things that cause customers to buy are exceptions to what their job is. It is a disruption to their normal routines. It is something they have little experience with. It is something that, if done incorrectly, could have serious business and personal repercussions.
While we have great comfort in selling, the customers we work with don’t. Perhaps we do better by focusing on this, helping them become more confident in what they are doing, how they do it, and that they will be successful.
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.