By Bob Apollo
One of the most significant mistakes any salesperson can make is to assume that their prospective customer is inevitably going to buy something, and that the only remaining questions are what, when, and who from.
Some purchases are admittedly inevitable – for example when an organisation needs to guarantee a source of raw materials for an essential process. But the vast majority of business purchases are discretionary in some way or another.
It’s no wonder that – according to a wide range of research – the most common outcome of a potential B2B buying exercise is actually a decision to “do nothing” and to stick with the status quo.
Selling against the status quo
You’d think it obvious, wouldn’t you, that any credible sales proposal ought to promote the need to take action as well as promoting the distinctive advantages of the vendor and their recommended solution?
And yet – unless my experience is particularly unusual – the vast majority of sales proposals still tend to focus on almost exclusively on why the customer should buy our solution, rather than on why the customer needs to take action at all.
That strategy may work when the purchase is indeed inevitable. But it’s a hopelessly inadequate approach when the purchase is discretionary, or when there is any doubt as to whether or when the prospect will take action.
As regular readers will know, I’m no great fan of using “BANT” [Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe] as the primary means of opportunity qualification. But even BANT qualified opportunities can fall prey to “do nothing” or “do it later” decisions.
Identifying and amplifying the Cost of Inaction
And whilst of course we need to help our customers to justify the return they can expect to get as a result of investing in our proposed solution, we first need to help them to recognise the costs and consequences of inaction – and what bad things could happen if they choose to continue on their current trajectory.
The perceived Cost of Inaction often turns out to be pivotal to a decision to spend money on a new solution, and there is solid psychology behind this. Research by the Nobel prize-winning behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman proved that buyers are 2-3 times more likely to respond to the threat of loss than they were to the potential for gain alone.
So, one of the very first things we need to qualify a potential opportunity for is the current likelihood that the prospect will take action. We need to determine whether this action is inevitable, probable or possible. Many sales methodologies use the term “compelling event” to identify inevitable purchases.
What is a “compelling event”?
A compelling event might – for example – be the potential to run out of critical raw material for an essential process. Or it might be a legal requirement to comply with a particular piece of legislation by a defined date.
These examples are probably genuinely compelling. But there are many other so-called “compelling events” that could in fact be subject to slippage without the customer’s core …read more
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