B2B sellers of complex technologies, that address a broad spectrum of customer issues, are generally very smart people, especially within the framework of their specific scope of solutions. On a parallel scale, business buyers of these complex technologies are also very smart people.
Smart people are perfectly capable of grasping and solving complex problems, though they may certainly differ in their approach or priorities. Unfortunately, whether by genetic wiring or socio-cultural persuasion, what they (and all of us) are not as capable of is being ready or willing to embrace change. And of course, change is what is surely required when acknowledging and solving problems, and certainly when the subject of implementing new technology or processes is on the agenda.
When people begin to consider the change required to dove-tail solutions with complex problems, their rational side takes over to process the data. Rationality requires a more focused analysis, and effective analysis requires both time and energy.
Time and energy, along with patience and attention span, are limited resources and can be depleted quicker than a smartphone’s battery.
And when that happens, your buyer goes radio-silent! You find yourself in some strange and oddly familiar no-man’s land as they mysteriously start avoiding your phone calls. You feel as though you have fallen into a black-hole of lost momentum. When, and if, a connection is finally re-established, they politely yet pointedly inform you they have to put it (your pride and joy) on the back-burner for now, to focus on other “more pressing” tasks. It is very difficult to recover that momentum once a buyer’s stamina is spent. When it’s gone, it’s gone. And there is no up-side to going back to zero, in hopes of re-building, or fixing what can never be repaired – the buyer’s enthusiasm for your solution.
The key is to simplify the buying process, so that your prospect’s “buying stamina” never starts running on fumes, or worse, flames out. You need to literally dumb it down. Not because your buyers aren’t smart, or capable, or far-sighted enough, but because they are human and incredibly busy, with a limited capacity of time and energy. You must dumb it down to prevent the ‘juice’ connected with your sales proposition to run out. Your buyer needs to be ‘plugged-in’ to an energy source strong enough to sustain them all the way through to the end.
Here are a number of ways you can dumb it down so that your smart prospects will not only buy, but will be your most ‘enlightened’ advocates.
- Don’t tell them. Don’t show them. Give them a way to experience it.
It requires a lot more energy to envision something than it does to experience it. Watching is not the same as experiencing. Next time you give a demo, ask your prospect to take the wheel.
- Don’t make the buyer think in your terms.
Speak in their language, not yours. Why make their brain have to expend the energy required to translate what you tell them into something they can understand? For example, don’t refer to your product as a ‘predictive analytics solution’, if what it does – from the buyer’s perspective – is to identify the right person to call. A buyer’s capacity for being qualified as ‘smart’ does not mean your brand of tech-savvy lingo will translate as easily as you think. Skip the need for the buyer to translate what you say, into a literal ‘no-brainer’ of a direct hit.
- Help them envision what happens next. Not in the end. Next.
Big changes come from a succession of small, easily absorbed changes. Asking buyers to focus on the end-goal may be too overwhelming. While you may be intimately familiar with the outcomes, your buyer still must mentally walk-the-walk within the process if it is ever going to ‘stick’. If you have ever had a long trail to hike, you have probably accomplished the task by focusing on the intermediary goals. You tell yourself, “Only ½ mile to the next mile-marker!” because if instead you told yourself, “Only 9 miles to go!” chances are you would turn around and head for home, regardless of the mental consequences.
You must focus on ‘next’ because it is the totality of the endeavor that shuts the stamina down. Your prospects will react no differently if you make them focus on the end-goal at the expense of the next step.
- Ask questions
Buyers form their interpretations and conclusions not only by what you tell them, but – perhaps most importantly – by how you tell them. If you go on a long rant about your product features and benefits, they will tune you out, or shut themselves down. The best way for your message to reach them effectively is to have the prospect come upon it for themselves, step by carefully-crafted step, by answering a series of ‘phase-specific’ questions.
Not just any questions either. And especially not BANT questions which only serve to help you, the seller. Ask questions that, in the process of answering, give your prospects insight into the problem and the possibilities. If they themselves can experience the transformation from problem to solution, with the strategic ‘cues’ offered by you at the right moment, the selling ‘process’ will unfold before your own eyes. The important difference is that the buyer is the one telling the story, and the script will have been written in their own words. I’ll give you an example. But first, know that this exact line of questioning is not right for every situation. It’s just an example:
You: “What are the odds that your revenue will increase by 5% this year with the tools and processes currently in place?”
Them: “I think we’ll be able to get it done.”
You: “I know this is a crazy question, but what are the odds of doubling your revenue this year?”
Them: “Slim to none.”
You: “5% of revenue growth is do-able and 100% revenue growth is not. What percentage of revenue growth could you accomplish, in your opinion, without changing – in some way – the tools and process you currently have in place?”
Them: “That’s a really good question.”
This type of questioning creates insight (if I don’t think bigger, I can’t get “there” from “here”). To bend a quote from an obvious source – “if you [help them to] build it, they will come”. And if the buyer can experience how and why the solutions do what they do, within an unfolding transitional process, then they become, in effect, a player instead of a spectator within your field of dreams.
- Give ’em Back-up
Rarely does one person make the purchase decision in B2B sales any more. Even if your prospect can make the call independently of others, they will not go it alone. In the beginning, they will tell people what they are thinking about doing, and who they are talking with, and why they are excited about it. As the sales cycle proceeds and things “get real,” the prospect will ask for feedback on their intentions from trusted advisors and decision influencers. They will share their concerns and ask for others’ assessments.
Then, when they make the call to move forward, the tables will turn and others will ask the questions of them. “Why do you want to do this again?” “How is this going to work again?” In effect, they have taken on your particular role as the salesperson. While imagining this scenario, ask yourself just how well you prepared your prospect for this moment.
Their confidence will be a direct reflection of your sales effectiveness. And it will determine how successfully the prospect can convey the vision supporting their intended decision. The imperative here is that there are several inflection points along the path to a sale where your prospect will need back-up. It is, after all, their own reserves of time and energy they will be drawing from. Make sure they are fully prepared and positioned – both to describe their excitement (at the beginning) and to defend their decision (at the end).
Often, we are so focused on selling solutions and getting to the proposal stage that we lose sight of the fact that prospects are likely to run out of buyer-stamina before you can reach a final agreement. You are the fuel for your prospects’ decision process. Do what’s necessary to reduce the amount of energy required. Simplify the buying process. Dumb it down. Not because your buyers aren’t smart, but rather because they are smart. And intelligence requires a great deal of energy and stamina.
Author, Nancy Nardin is the foremost expert in sales productivity tools. As President of Smart Selling Tools, she consults with many of the top sales productivity software vendors as well as end-user organizations looking to select the right tools. Click to get Nancy’s What & When weekly digest with invitations to complimentary webinars and informative publications. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools or subscribe to her Tool Talk blog. Nancy can be reached at 916-596-3035. To schedule a free 30 minute consultation.