Suffering? Still Optional.
Everyone who spends time in sales ends up hitting the wall eventually. Things feel stuck: prospects don’t seem to be listening and buyers definitely aren’t buying. The seller feels as if he’s swimming through Jell-O. It’s at this point that I’m often brought in to work with sales teams. Perhaps you’re in that place even as you’re reading this?
Any sales situation is really just an extended set of variables: (1) price, (2) included features and services, (3) decision maker, (4) value rationale and (5) available funds. It’s pretty much impossible to change an outcome – to unstick an account or a deal – without changing one or more of the variables.
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But when facing the wall, far too many frustrated sellers choose struggle over change; under stress, they cling ever more tightly to the familiar moves, the known patterns. The solution, they irrationally believe, is in simply working harder; putting more of your back into it. But this makes as much sense as repeating the same English words more loudly and clearly to someone who speaks German or Farsi and expecting them to suddenly comprehend.
OK, so what I’ve written so far is only mostly true. Sometimes a pressured seller will try to change variables 1 and 2. Slashing price or throwing armloads of “added value” at the deal might open things up a bit. But the effect is shallow, temporary, unfulfilling and ultimately unprofitable. You may convince your company to provide more goods and services for less money, but you’ve also trained your buyer that either (a) your deal wasn’t worth your initial asking price or (b) you’ll go even lower next time.
No, it’s variables 3, 4 and 5 that you really need to change.
(3) Decision Maker: Whether out of fear or habit, the seller often sticks with the same non-responsive buyer relationship. Bringing new decision makers into the mix seems hard, and dangerous. But only by putting in the work and taking the risk does she shift this variable and open the account.
(4) Value Rationale: Too often we go into the sales discovery process without a strong point of view on the value we deliver and – more importantly – how to measure it. Instead we simply ask the buyer about their metrics and ROI yardstick and dance to their tune. But there’s nothing wrong with telling a customer “we’ve both been looking at this the wrong way.” Heck, I’d argue that you’re doing them a service.
(5) Available Funds: The dirty little secret is that lack of available budget has never prevented a qualified decision maker from buying something he really wants to buy. When you hear “our budget’s gone” it means “we just didn’t want your product badly enough.” Suggest alternative budgets or build an argument for going back to ask for a budget increase. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Pressure is inevitable. Suffering is optional. And if you’re the one changing the variables in your deals, you’ll suffer a whole lot less.