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Dealing With Crazy-Busy Buyers

by Doug Davidoff | Jul 8, 2010 5:05:16 AM

This book review originally appeared in Baltimore and Washington SmartCEO Magazine July 2010 issue.

One of the major points that I make to CEOs and salespeople whenever I speak with them (and a point you may want to make note of) is: NOBODY WANTS YOUR STUFF!!  Nobody wants to buy anything from you.  Early in my sales career, I had a coach who told me that everyone woke up in the morning with the same goal in mind.  When I asked him what that goal was, he told me:  “They don’t want to meet you.”

I’ve spent more than 20 years immersed in the world of selling, sales training, and sales leadership.  Over that time, I’ve gotten more and more discouraged with the vast majority of approaches to selling.  It’s not that the approaches, per se, are wrong or bad.  The issue is much more nuanced than that.  The fundamental problem with the vast majority of traditional, solutions-oriented sales approaches is that they all presume the prospect’s interest and/or awareness of their need for the product or service being sold.

This approach is fine for markets that have abundant demand, limited supply, and clear differences between one product/service and another.  However, in busy, hectic, and complex markets where sellers are aggressive and everyone claims superiority, this approach leads to an ever-accelerating rate of commoditization.

On my blog, I’ve written a lot about The Drought that virtually every seller is experiencing.  Today:

    • There are fewer buyers and the buyers that are left have lower budgets.

    • Despite the decrease in demand, competition and choice is as plentiful as ever.

    • Buyers have less time and that means they have less attention to give to sellers or to understand a seller’s offerings.

The Drought is a double-edged sword for sellers.  Fewer buyers and greater competition is a major obstacle in its own right.  But, the bigger barrier is that solutions today are more complex than ever (especially if you are providing any type of superior offering), and the differences between your offerings and your competition are more nuanced than ever.  Be honest for a moment.  While you may provide the best alternative for your prospects (I certainly hope you think you do), they are more than enough adequate alternatives.  The fact that prospects and customers have less attention to give you, creates an extreme barrier that  enables them to understand the complexity of your offerings.

Selling organizations and salespeople must fundamentally change their approach in order to be successful tomorrow.  Merely mastering sales techniques and being persistent are no longer enough to survive in the competitive jungle.

Jill Konrath, author and selling consultant, echoes this in her new book SNAP Selling:  Speed Up Sales and Win More Business With Today’s Frazzled Customers.  I became aware of Jill’s book and she was kind enough to send me a copy to review.  Jill is a superstar saleswoman and has been helping small and mid-market businesses successfully sell to big companies for years.

She shares her story of how these changes virtually killed her business and the adjustments she had to make in order to thrive.  Luckily for us, she shares these insights openly.  SNAP Selling is one of the few books (or articles) that I’ve come across that accurately reflects just how customers really view salespeople today.  The reality check she provides makes it worth the read itself.

While I’m not a fan of manufactured anagrams, SNAP Selling does address four critical success factors in selling today.

    • Simple – Sellers today must eliminate complexity from the decision making process.  Too often sellers, in the efforts to demonstrate just how great they are, make the process seem even more complicated than it is.  This is proved  by a recent survey of buyers that revealed that more than 40% of buy processes are ending in a no-decision.

    • Invaluable – The only viable success strategy when there are so many adequate alternatives is to become absolutely indispensable to your customers.  This is also true for salespeople. To succeed, salespeople need to be critical resources for their customer, not merely peddlers.

    • Aligned – You must be customer centric today.  The single, most important action a salesperson can take is to view the purchasing process from their buyer’s eyes.  This will ensure that you stay relevant through the entire buying process and will speed up the process as well.

    • Priority – Here’s the paradox: buyers have always been swayed by the tyranny of the urgent.  Sellers, by helping buyers get a picture of the long-term, could overcome by clearly demonstrating importance.  Today, your offering must be important and urgent.

Only by understanding the mindset, life, and needs of your buyers will you be able to position your offerings and your sales process to be successful.  SNAP Selling provides a great place to start that understanding.