Year after year, study after study, the data confirms that a buyer aligned sales strategy improves win rates, quota attainment, and overall sales performance. For instance, this CSO Insights study indicates that the implementation of a formal or dynamic buyer alignment improves win rates from 40.5% (for no alignment) to 53%. Our client Analitek doubled their win rates.
Yet often, it seems that most of us give more lip service than real attention to how our buyers make decisions and what they need in order to make the decision we want them to make. I spoke about this issue in a recent Sales Hacker webinar, and here I want to discuss 2 things we often overlook about our buyers, and 4 common buyer alignment mistakes we make, as well as how to resolve them.
2 Things About Buyers We Often Overlook
It’s pretty common in sales circles to talk about buyer personas and buyer journeys, and to talk about the complexity of the sale based on the dollar amount. We also tend to be pretty good at qualifying and disqualifying prospects based on a list of hard criteria, but here are a couple of things almost no one is talking about, but that are critically important:
- Intrusive versus disruptive. Everyone talks about whether their product or service is disruptive, but have you looked at whether it is intrusive for the customer?
- Soft qualifiers versus hard qualifiers. Everyone knows how to qualify on the basis of organization size and budget, but what about soft qualifiers such as how they go about making a decision and whether they are early adopters or traditionalists?
Intrusive vs disruptive
The term “disruptive” refers to the way that a product or service changes the way the market works. Uber is often given as the prime example, because it completely changed the way that people access on-demand transportation.
Intrusive has to do with the way the product or service impacts individual buyers. To understand what I mean, consider medical interventions. If you have surgery done on your heart, that is very intrusive. If you take a pill to prevent heart problems, that is less intrusive. Most people will spend more time considering whether to go in for surgery than whether to take a pill, because the perceived risk of an intrusive procedure is higher than a non-intrusive procedure.
Uber, then, although a disruptive technology, is not an intrusive technology for the customer. It does not impact individuals in any significant way to download an app. It’s fast, easy, and relative perceived-risk-free. An ERP system, on the other hand, can be a significantly intrusive technology, even if it is not disruptive. It usually involves a major overhaul of the way a company operates, affecting individuals and processes throughout many parts of the company.
Thus, convincing someone to download Uber onto their phone is a much simpler sales process than convincing them to buy an ERP.
Soft qualifiers vs hard qualifiers
Though there can be some disagreement around what the qualifiers are, most salespeople understand their main hard qualifiers, and work comfortably with them.
What many organizations fail to look at, however, is buyer-side qualifiers that can impact how the buyer approaches the purchase, and therefore whether they are a good fit both for your product and for your sales approach. Some of these qualifiers include:
- Whether they take an analytical or “gut” approach to a purchase
- Whether they make decisions by committee or by recommendation
- Whether they are early adopters or traditionalists
- Whether they habitually chase “shiny objects” or generally take a strategic approach
In my organization right now, our best customers tend to be early adopters who take a strategic approach to sales their effectiveness problems. If we failed to understand this, our win rates would be lower as we chased after leads with a poor soft qualifier fit.
Likewise, knowing whether an organization approaches problems analytically or by the gut, and how they go about making the final decision, can help sales teams prepare a sales strategy that is appropriate for each buyer.
4 buyer alignment mistakes to avoid
Focusing on the buyer can help your salespeople avoid some of the most common and troubling mistakes, including:
- Jumping into presentation mode too soon
- Failing to convey tailored business value
- Misunderstanding the decision making process
- Underestimating the strength of the competition and the status quo
1. Jumping into presentation mode
Sellers who are trained, coached, and supported in focusing on buyer needs, process, and characteristics are much less likely to skip ahead to presentation before the buyer is ready. They’ll know how to ask penetrating questions that reveal buyer motivations and process, and they’ll position themselves as the trusted advisors rather than salespeople pitching a product.
2. Failing to convey business value
Sellers can be trained, coached, and supported to research each buyer’s high level needs through publicly available financials (which reveal the organization’s priorities for the year), as well as through carefully crafted questions. Then, the sales conversation can focus on aligning with what is important to the buyer at the business level.
3. Misunderstanding the decision making process
Often, sellers think that the buying process is a straightforward line from awareness to consideration to decision. The truth is that every organization’s decision making process is unique and often complex. A buyer focus helps uncover the decision making process so that the seller’s process can be aligned to it.
4. Underestimating the strength of the status quo
As a rule, humans hate change. The only way most of us ever agree to change is when the pain of where we are is unbearable and/or a change promises dramatic improvement. When we focus our attention on the need of the buyer for the comfort of sameness, we can build strategies that help them understand their need for change and to manage that change as painlessly as possible for them.
Improve buyer alignment with checklists and process
Improving buyer alignment begins first with recognizing its importance, and second with focusing our sales strategy on the buyer. But the strategy is only as good as the execution. Effective execution requires a buyer aligned process, implemented inside the salespeople’s workflow, and matched with effective checklists.
You can read more about building an effective process here, how to implement it into their workflow here, and the value of checklists for salespeople here. Also, here’s the case study with our client Analitek, who doubled their win rates using a structured sales process, executed using Membrain.