Buyers from Hell

Complex sales can be hellish. They usually involve wider and deeper business challenges that require longer sales-cycles and result in larger average deal sizes.

What turns ordinary people into Buyers from Hell is that they don’t wake up one day and say, “I know the exact extent of my challenges, who I should talk with, and what I need to know in order to solve them.” They might not even be convinced they need to be solved.

For those of you whose job it is to contact potential buyers before getting an explicit invitation beware! As a friend of mine at one of the world’s largest companies and an admitted Buyer from Hell said, “I feel like I have a bulls-eye on my back. I get approached 5 times a day. I have become a complete asshole to spare myself a ton of aggravation and wasted time. I have one clear rule.  I simply don’t take sales calls that I don’t initiate.”

He went on to say, “Most of the many approaches I get absolutely suck. There is no clear value prop for me, whatsoever, to waste my time talking to them. Often, I’m the wrong buyer for what they sell.  And then, the approaches suck, to boot.)

I’m sure there are many self-professed Buyers from Hell out there. Here are three rules of thumb for selling to them.

  1. It’s about the buyer stupid
    “Why are you calling me?!” That’s the first thing they want to know (even if it goes unasked).  The answer to that question better be addressed right up front and  it better not be something about wanting to know whether they’re the right person to talk with about X, Y, or Z. What is the value for them, in taking your call? That’s what you want to focus on. You must do your pre-call research. In complex sales (versus transaction-based sales) there is no way around it. You will not be successful if you haven’t found a hook FOR THAT PARTICULAR BUYER.
  2. They’ve got 99 problems and you’re one of them
    You are an interruption. You’re one of several salespeople calling them that day. Rest assured, they are not sitting there waiting for your call. In fact, they aren’t likely to even pick up the phone—that’s how much they don’t want to talk to you. Asking them to tell you about their current use of [your words here]… or to tell you anything about their role, is not wise on a first call. If you don’t want to be seen as a problem, you must add value and for that to happen, you have to find a way in. Look for trigger events that you can reference on the call. Trigger events are anything that would indicate a newly recognized or prioritized need. Trigger events are great door openers.
  3. “Average” is a fail
    Be exceptional. Look for a way you’re connected and make reference to it. Or better yet, have that person make the introduction. Using LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a quick way to discover connections within your own company or network. Find a presentation your Buyer gave at an event and comment on it. Send a link to a related document they might find interesting. Average Sellers just pick up the phone and dial. Average Sellers expect to earn trust and engage instantly. Average Sellers expect the objective of a first call to be an appointment. Exceptional sellers know they must provide a bread-crumb of value over time if they want the Buyer to take a specific path.

I asked my Buyer from Hell friend the magic question,”what approaches do work with you.” He had a tough time coming up with an answer. As is so often the case, it’s easier to know what you don’t like than it is to know what you do like (especially when you’re presented with so few examples of the good stuff). None-the-less, here were his main points for what works:

      • They did some research and know something I’m dealing with or that the industry is struggling with.
      • They know my exact role and what I’m a buyer for, rather than assuming it’s everything in the ecosystem.
      • They used a referral or intro to get to me.
      • They take a low key approach and don’t use standard “sales techniques.
      • They can clearly and concisely provide a value story, especially what they’ve done for someone in a similar situation.

If you’re dealing with Buyer’s from Hell, be sure you’re not a Seller from the same place. Elevate your approach if you expect to escape their rath and be welcomed into a productive conversation.