John O' Gorman

Sellers Make Dangerous Assumptions About Buying

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Guess Work About Buying

As more salespeople are learning to their cost, assumptions about how the buying decision is going to be made can be dangerous.  There are 3 areas where this applies:

1. Salespeople who make assumptions, rather than asking about the steps, people, or criterion involved, run the risk of getting it wrong.  This is important because sellers must often read between the lines, inferring from what little they have been told, in order to understand how the decision will be made.   The result is an implied knowledge of the buying decision that can easily be wrong.  The saying ‘a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing’ applies.

2. Similarly, extrapolating what happens in other organisations or parts of the same organisation can also be dangerous.  It is clear that when it comes to buying no two decisions are likely to be made in the same way.  So, again there is no alternative to finding out on a case-by-case basis how the decision will be made.

3. Assuming they will buy the same way this time, as they did the last.  In a group of 40 salespeople recently, more than 15% indicated that they had been surprised by sudden departures from traditional approach to buying in some of their key customer accounts.  These changed buying patterns were triggered by events, such as;

  • A merger or acquisition
  • New group-wide or corporate rules or strategies
  • A change of management, or key personnel
  • A change of business strategy
  • The drive towards cost reduction

The advise is ‘just because your customers bought a particular way the last time, does not mean that they will buy the same way next time’.  How companies buy can change without notice from one purchase to the next.  The result is that sellers must be continually on their guard.  To avoid shocks and surprises sellers should treat each repeat sale as if it were a new sale and thereby enquire as to just how the decision will be made.

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