John O' Gorman

The Ultimate Test of The Sales Pro: Helping Buyers To Buy

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The ultimate test - helping the buyer to buy

Getting buyers to part with there money is more difficult than at any time in over a decade.  In the era of slashed budgets, scrapped and stalled projects, salespeople feel almost helpless.  Their role has changed.

Today’s successful salespeople don’t just have to sell their solutions, first they must generate demand for them, change the buyer’s priorities and influence the allocation of budgets.   All that is hard work, but it is essential to putting the buying back into selling, so to speak.  To labour the point – it is harder than impressing the X Factor judges, completing the Times Crossword, or writing a best selling novel.

Getting the purchase order is no longer a relatively simple a matter of ensuring that your business is chosen over a competing supplier.  It goes much deeper than that.  After all the competition is not another vendor, but another project, or priority in the buying organisation.  The decision to chose another supplier is not the greatest threat we as sellers face, rather it is a decision to do nothing.

We all know that projects don’t stall because the buyer cannot select a vendor, but because he, or she cannot justify the purchase decision either to themselves, or their colleagues.  We also know that, with many projects competing for scarce internal resources, sellers are more like to the new form of competition – a competing project, the decision to do it in-house, and so on.

Even if the salesperson can convince the manager to buy, his, or her work is only beginning.  That is because most managers don’t have the authority to make purchases other than small ones.   To get approval is going to require the buy-in from their colleagues, the completion of a number of steps in a buying process and most important of all the preparation of some form of business case.   Only then can they confidently expect the purchase to be sanctioned.

While these challenges are outside the remit of traditional sales techniques, they are not outside the control of the true sales pro.  Here is the good news – sellers can help buyers to buy.  Indeed, they must – it is the new basis for success in selling.

Now ‘helping the buyer to buy’ may sound soft, compared to pitching, persuading and closing for example.  However, the reality couldn’t be more different.  Not only is it 10 times harder, but it also 10 times more effective.

Buyers are typically weary of salespeople that want to help them.  They are increasingly keeping sellers at arms length, it is only the very special salesperson that gets an opportunity to help the buyer.  He, or she is likely to be seen more as an expert, a peer and a trusted advisor – titles conferred on only a minority of salespeople.

What is the focus of these cherished salespeople, whose focus is not on selling, but on helping the buyer to buy?  Well, they focus on facilitating the buying decision by helping the buyer to:

  1. Build a compelling business case for the purchase (i.e. the costs, benefits and risks equation)
  2. Successfully navigate the steps required to command resources that would otherwise go to competing projects (i.e. buying process).
  3. Get the buy-in required from managers in other departments, and even at board level.

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