The CEB research figures show that people are 57% of the way through the buying process by the time they contact a sales person.
If you think about it, we all go on-line and research the products we buy from cars to multimillion enterprise systems. In fact, the higher the value the more likely we are to go on-line and research.
If, for example, your company is about to buy a new accounting system, or undertake a digital transformation, the project manager and the evaluation team will go on-line and research.
I remember, sitting with the Human Resources (HR) software sales team in my last company and somebody came back to the office and said; “Glad that meeting is over, they knew more than me.” I seemed to be the only person not surprised. Of course, any evaluation team will have read up before a supplier turned up.
They will have gone on-line and researched the long list and short list of suppliers, read up on your competition. They will have also looked at the macro influencers, such as Gartner and read the micro influencers. All of which reveal trends, future of work, the competition, prices etc.
My co-founder, Adam and I went to a meeting with, let’s call them a “big 5” company, and they said the internet didn’t matter to them. They had relationships with CEOs and business was conducted between them and the CEO. Surprised us too.
I’m aware of another “big 5” that had a pricing proposal rejected by a customer as the people they proposed and the day rates did not match their corresponding Linkedin profiles. For example, some of the people on the team were on LinkedIn as graduates and the proposal had pitched them in at a higher rate.
So, what has this go to do with closing?
When I started selling 25 years ago sales was so much simpler.
You listened to a client’s business requirements, you matched back your product and services.
You probed for your USPs and got the client to say these were the priorities locking the competition out.
But in reality, clients would still need to look at three suppliers as the procurement department needed to show they were getting the best price.
You would guide the client through the different stages of the procurement as you knew the steps and they didn’t.
That has all changed.
In many cases now (that we come across) clients have completed the buying process on-line. They have already decided what they want.
Nobody likes being sold to
Alex Low (the world’s best Sales Navigator expert) tells the story of how he went to purchase a car. He had configured it and all he needed from the VW salesman was to agree a price on the new one and a part exchange on the old one. What we are finding (certainly in Europe) is that you no longer need to close buyers, but empower them.
But the VW salesman assumed Alex was at the start of the buying process and his rigid sales process forced Alex to go from the start. Alex walked out and purchased his car elsewhere.
More and more (there are exceptions which I will explain in a moment) prospects expect help and guidance from an expert and not the ABC – Always Be Closing – fantasy.
Clients now go on-line and draw up short lists. Don’t forget they de-select short lists on-line just as much as they select. According to CEB research they are 35% of the way through the buying process when they know or understand what it is they want to buy. 57% of the way through the buying process, they are pretty sure, which is when they contact or stop being in salesperson avoidance mode.
The exceptions are where sales people buy from sales people or when you are going for a sales job and as sales people live in a “bubble” we have to close as there is an expectation. For example, When Adam and I closed our recent reseller agreement with our new partner in Canada, we closed them. We were negotiating with another sales person and he expected it. Call it old fashioned I guess.