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    How sales and marketing can engage real buyers

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    Marketing and sales could be so much more effective if they could find, engage, and facilitate not-yet buyers through their Pre-Sales, change management issues - the stuff that precludes them from identifying as buyers initially but who will be once they’re ready.

    Currently sales and marketing spend money/resource finding names and inundating them with content, hoping to evoke a sale. But success has been elusive, and we must ask ourselves these questions:

    • Do our product details move people to action they wouldn’t take otherwise?
    • Are we convincing those who would NOT buy to choose us over our competitors? Cause them to buy NOW instead of later?
    • Does our information get read by folks who aren’t yet buyers but will be?
    • Are we capturing/engaging folks who WILL be buyers?

    I think the answer is ‘no’ on all counts. It’s because we’re focused on the Sell Side and overlook the Buy Side. And they’re two entirely different things. Let me explain.

    Manage change then buy

    Before people consider themselves ‘buyers’, they have Pre-Sales work to do. This is why they ignore what we send: it doesn’t seem relevant, regardless of a need or the efficacy of our solution.

    Until people figure out how to manage any change - until they know for sure they’re going to fix something rather than leave it as it is, until they try to fix it themselves and get buy-in for change - they don’t seek to buy anything.

    A buying decision is a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue. And there are far more people in the process of deciding than there are those who show up as buyers.

    A buying decision is a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue.

    But our outreach is limited to folks who meet the demographics and search terms that imply to us they have a need. What if we could connect with people in the middle of their buying decision process who don’t yet consider themselves buyers?

    When do people buy

    At the start, people don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ to the system and only become buyers once they

    • recognize a problem,
    • gather stakeholders to understand the full fact pattern that maintains the problem,
    • try to fix the problem with workarounds/available resources,
    • get buy in from the stakeholders if workaround not possible,
    • understand the downside, the ‘cost’, of making a change,
    • agree on the criteria that an external solution must meet,
    • choose a solution that will match their criteria and all agree on.

    Regardless of how sophisticated our efforts at engaging the ‘right’ ones, until people have completed their change management work above, they are not buyers, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution.

    They certainly won’t be lured by marketing that pushes content they haven’t yet recognized they want. And this is why we fail to close more sales: we’re assuming our content will entice when they’re not looking for enticement.

    With our current solution placement/’need’ lens, we’re merely hoping and guessing our missives will inspire buying when we could be engaging and leading real, but not-yet-ready, buyers through their Buying Decision Path (BDP).

    Certainly we capture some eyeballs as folks do research on route to fixing their problem, but these folks aren’t engaged buyers and often ignore what they read or we’ve sent them: they’re not ready, and they’re not yet buyers.

    In other words, a high percentage of folks who may be our target market are not active buyers.

    How change management influences buying

    I figured out the ins and outs of buying decades ago. I became a tech entrepreneur in the 1980s after being a sales professional for many years and the differences between the Sell Side and the Buy Side became obvious.

    When I began hiring and managing, it hit me that a decision to buy anything – leadership training, software - was more complex than I had realized. As a responsible leader, I had to first try to resolve the problem internally, understand the full problem set by hearing from all involved, and get everyone’s buy-in for any change.

    Ultimately, until we all understood the ‘cost’ of the change to our job descriptions and policies, and were certain we couldn’t fix the problem ourselves, I would have been irresponsible to consider making a purchase.

    That’s when I realized the problem I had as a seller: buying and selling are two wholly different mind-sets and activities! The Buy Side is change management-based; the Sell Side involves solution placement. And both sales and marketing overlook this discrepancy.

    Right now we wait for these folks to appear. But we can influence their journey – just not with selling or marketing as they are now used.

    Facilitate the buy side

    Once I realized that change management preceded buying, I developed a unique change facilitation process I named Buying Facilitation® for my own sales team. Instead of beginning by seeking folks with need, we sought out folks seeking change in the area our solution could support and facilitated them through the steps they had to take anyway as they approached problem resolution.

    Once they completed their work with our help, we were in line to be their chosen providers. I was happily surprised that we no longer needed proposals, and our pitches were greatly diminished as most of their decision making was already done by then. My business doubled.

    Obviously this is different than what we’re used to as the outreach is not based on placing a solution. Because of the different focus and goals, the new thinking brings up questions: are we willing to

    1. broaden our activities to include change management?
    2. use a different filter than need or solution placement?
    3. take non-solution-related action?
    4. seek out those on route to becoming buyers and facilitate them down their steps?
    5. avoid solution details and sales/marketing techniques?

    Of course we use customary sales tools once these folks are ready to buy. But are you ready? Can I help?

    Sharon-Drew Morgen
    Published October 10, 2021
    By Sharon-Drew Morgen

    Sharon-Drew Morgen is an original thinker, inventor of Buying Facilitation®, Facilitative Questions, 13 steps of systemic change, and the HOW of change. Author of the award-winning blog sharon-drew.com and 9 books including the New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and WHAT? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon-Drew trains, coaches, speaks in several industries, including sales, healthcare, communication, change, Servant Leadership. She lives on a houseboat in Portland, Oregon, USA.

    Find out more about Sharon-Drew Morgen on LinkedIn