Except for transactional sales like online buying, the majority of sales (thankfully) still involve salespeople. But even in value-based sales, price looms overhead. A misstep many salespeople make is to get so focused on the prices of their products (Are we too high? Are we leaving too much money on the table?), that they overlook three things buyers decide on before a price discussion begins.
- The buyer decides on you
In the person-to-person sales process, salespeople first need to sell themselves. It doesn’t matter what the product or service is, buyers are asking themselves: Do I like you? Do you care? It’s often noted that two-thirds of people who decide to take their business elsewhere aren’t concerned so much about technical problems or lured by the competition as they are by feeling that they are being taken for granted. Such potential for rejection begins at the very first interaction sellers have with buyers.
Selling yourself first means making a good impression with how you look, sound and act. But more importantly, it means connecting with the buyer. I remember a big meeting with a group of executive buyers. Someone made a statement that was so surreal it could have come out of a Monty Python film. I caught the eye of the key decision maker and we shared smiles. We talked and laughed about it following the meeting and afterwards I could always get an appointment with him.
- The buyer decides on your company
After becoming comfortable with you, the buyer needs to become comfortable with who’s behind you. A company’s reputation helps answer questions in the buyer’s mind like: Do I trust you? Are your people a good match for mine? If you work for a known company, that’s a plus. In the previous low-viral environment, there was nothing like handing over your business card with a famous logo on it to a potential client. But those days (and accompanying handshakes) may be over forever. Now your company not only needs name recognition, it needs accessible and compelling websites.
If you don’t represent a well-known company, you’ll need to have a succinct and compelling statement about what your company does. Not long ago I contracted with a company to get rid of mosquitoes around my house. The seller I bought from said his job was to “make summer fun again.” Loved it. Some salespeople tend to overprocess this. For example, if you’re using more than a couple of sentences to explain what your company does and they include words like “leverage” and “recontextualize,” you might want to get some help. Maybe ask your kids.
- The buyer decides on your offering
Many buyers today already believe they know what they need because they’ve been thinking about it for a while and searching the Internet. Clearly, what a salesperson is offering has to at least partially fit the picture in the buyer’s head. Then it’s up to sales skill to help the buyer get the right solution to meeting needs and solving problems. Or, if you’re a great salesperson and playing the long game, help the buyer get to another company because your offering isn’t the best fit.
There are a couple of things important to note about all this. First, a whole lot happens in the buyer’s decision process before price comes into play. The buyer may have a notional budget in mind, but nothing specific happens until they like and trust you and believe you can help them. The other important thing for salespeople to remember is don’t lead with your solution. Lead with you. You’re your own best product.