Ray Collis

The Age of The Skeptical Buyer Has Dawned

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(a) ‘Sales Weary’ Buyers

Buyers are more skeptical of vendor sales; people, processes and promises than ever before.  They don’t trust easily, or forget quickly- and with good reason.  Buyers are increasingly ‘sales-weary’, so sellers take great care!
(b) The Sins of Past Sales People

Here is a simple reality that we as sellers need to grasp – although buyers may want to buy that does not mean that they want to be sold to!  Indeed for many that is the last thing they want.  That is because when it comes to salespeople buyers have baggage – that is psychological baggage of course.

For every good sales person buyers have dealt with there have been 3, or 4 bad ones.  Unfortunately, it is the bad ones that have shaped buyer opinions of the profession of sales.  The sins of past sales people are carried forward and those in the profession today must make amends.

Buyers have seen it all before – the presentations and promises, as well as the occasional disappointments. These past experiences have given rise a certain weariness of sellers.

(c) How Buyer Trust Has Been Eroded

Salespeople will not easily pull the wool over today’s buyers.  Most buyers have learned not to trust ‘the typical salesperson’ and to be weary of vendor propaganda in the form of value statements, sales pitches and marketing brochures.

As far as buyers are concerned salespeople are too careless with their promises – making more of them that they can keep. For example, the buyer ask ‘Can your solution do X?, ‘Does it do Y? and ‘What about Z?’.  The answer is a surprising ‘YES’ to everything, but the buyer is not convinced.    Making more modest claims is essential to winning buyer trust.

It does not help the fact that most buyers are making the same claims. Indeed buyers complain that they find it increasingly difficult to distinguish between one vendor and another.  Just visit the websites of any 3 vendors in the same industry and you will see what they mean.  There is an essential sameness to the marketing of most competing vendors.
The speed at which a vendor arrives at a solution to the buyers needs is an issue that heightens the issue of trust.  Vendors have to exercise great care to demonstrate an understanding of, as well as a degree of empathy for, the client’s needs, or problems before rushing to a solution.

(d) Buyers Raise Their Defenses

The issue of trust is compounded by the fact that revenue starved vendors have become increasingly aggressive in the search of new customers.  The result is that buyers are facing more of what they have learned to distrust and even dread – that is cold calls, sales pitches, etc. They have responded by erecting their defenses.

What Buyers Think of Sales People

We asked hundreds of managers to describe the typical salesperson in 3 words, here are the most frequent answers:

•      Talk too much

•      Don’t listen

•      Pushy

•      False / Insincere

•      Know all / Show-off

•      Rude / Bad Manners

•      Unprepared

•      Lacks product, or industry knowledge

•      Unpunctual

•      Interrupts

•      Not trust-worthy

Increasingly buyers are retreating behind voice mail, spam filters, no names policies, competitive tendering processes, etc.  It is only the very special salesperson that will get through.

Buyers have learned to use the tools of the unwitting salesperson in their own defense.  They know for example, that one of the most effective means of keeping a salesperson at bay is to request further information, documentation, or even a proposal.  Similarly, that the most effective way of stalling an over enthusiastic telesales person is to request a brochure in the post.

(e) A Healthy Dose of Skepticism

Taking the salesperson’s ‘word for it’ is something buyers are reluctant to do.  They are less interested in what the sales person claims and more interested in what his, or her customers have to say.  Buyers want case studies and credible whitepapers, as opposed to marketing speak and glossy brochures.

Buyers are increasingly wary of sellers tricks and ploys from the ‘I was in your neighborhood and I thought I would drop by…’ to the ‘good cop, bad cop’ negotiating stance.  They will ‘run a mile’ from crude and manipulative techniques for closing or building rapport (e.g. mirroring and pacing the behavior of the buyer).

Top 5 Implications for the Seller:

1.              The number one challenge facing the modern salesperson is to distance him, or herself from the sales stereotype that buyers have learned to distrust and disdain.

2.              It is a long road from salesperson to trusted adviser, but one which every sales professional must travel.

3.              Sales people must be more judicious about the promises made and careful about promises being kept.

4.              Salespeople must ditch old school sales and closing techniques that destroy buyer trust.

5.              Vendors must leverage 3rd party validation from customers, experts and analysts.  They must replace glossy brochures and sales pitches with information that buyers consider useful and of value.

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