Ray Collis

Myth #2: The Seller Is In Control

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Perhaps the greatest myth of all in respect of selling relates to who is in control. It is widely believed that the seller can or should be in control. However, nothing is further from thetruth.

The Seller As The Center Of The Universe

Notice anything wrong with the diagram below? Well, as out of place with reality as it may seem it describes pretty well the traditional view of selling.

1) The Mistaken View – Seller At the Center:

Seller Universe

We call it Ptolemy’s Theory of Selling — inspired by Ptolemy’s belief that the Earth was at the center of the universe and that everything else revolved around it. However, the seller is not the center of the universe, so no amount of sales process, marketing hype or vanity on the part of the salesperson can change that. Selling requires a new world view, one that puts the buyer at the centre.

2) The Corrected View – Buyer at the Centre:

Buyer Universe

When the new science of buying meets the traditional art of selling there are going to be problems. Organizational buying once ad hoc and unstructured has become highly sophisticated and process-driven. The result is that sales process must take second place to the rigid and demanding processes buyers must follow if purchase decisions are to be sanctioned.

Sellers are not in control, nor should they be. It is time salespeople gave up on the false idea of controlling the buyer. After all, if the buyer is not in control then the project is unlikely to get approval. Indeed, if the buyer is not in control then they are by default not senior or experienced enough to be taken seriously.

For the seller control is a dangerous illusion. This illusion is all too evident in their off-the-shelf sales proposals and clumsy closing techniques that alienate buyers, as well as a variety of dangerous assumptions that lead to surprises, sales cycle setbacks and unreliable sales forecasts.

Buyers Have Seized Control

The term ‘Caveat Emptor’, or buyer beware, was the dominant concept for decades. But the balance of power has shifted, with the seller reluctantly ceding control to a more sophisticated and cynical breed of buyer. Today it is the seller who must beware.

Increasingly, the buyer’s philosophy is ‘if you don’t manage the vendor, the vendor will manage you‘. As a consequence the salesperson is increasingly left on the outside looking in.

Buyers know they have the power in a market where suppliers out-number customers. They are increasingly confident and assertive in dealing with vendors. In short, they call all the shots. They like to be in control and stay in control. That means they start to elicit the requirements, build the business case and define the solution well in advance of meeting vendors.

The seller is no longer ‘the ringmaster’ of the sale, often being reduced to the role of a mere spectator. This is particularly the case where buyers are turning to the competitive tendering process (i.e. RFPs, RFIs and RFQs) to keep suppliers at arms length during the selection process.

New Rules Of Engagement

When it comes to buying there are new rules at play, fixed and immutable rules, such as the requirements of the buying process or the business case. The seller cannot break these rules, but these rules can break the seller.

Buyers now define what contact between buyer and seller is appropriate, even permissible, at each stage of the buying process. They are controlling access to managers with responses such as: ‘You will have to go through purchasing’ or ‘If you tell me the information that you need I will get it for you’. They don’t take well to vendors who try to circumvent the rules or go over their head. The fact is many sellers are left waiting in the hallway, while decisions are being made behind closed doors.

Buyers are also controlling access to information with the implication being that sellers are often required to prepare proposals based on mere guesswork or assumption.

Series Navigation«Myth #1: It’s All About Selling!Myth #3: The Unsophisticated Buyer»

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