Sales processes involve doing your homework and learning about the customer you are calling on. Sometimes, however, the best groundwork doesn't prepare you for those out-of-the-blue developments that can kill a deal in an instant. Below are some of the most common curveballs buyer’s throw, what causes their behavior, and how to respond to them.
- Never Mind
At first, buyers sound pretty adamant about what they want—until they wake up one day and decide that outcome is no longer important. What's the deal?
Most buyers fear the journey! During the planning phase, few consider what it takes to reach the goal. So, it's a surprise when the buyer drills down and discovers what has to change. It's like deciding you want a Porsche without knowing the price tag.
Example: A buyer called you to position their company so they can compete with a more prominent player. They understand the impact of taking business away from the bigger competitor and are excited about that result. And then they find out what it takes to mount such an effort—in both time and money. The urgency instantly disappears. They don't know if the business gained is worth the extra effort required.
To prevent this surprise from spinning out of control, give buyers two options: the right way and the "good enough" way. Tell folks what it will take, then step back and listen to the reaction. If you hear any kind of resistance, shock, or hesitation, go into "good enough" mode. Explain that they can phase in or test the approach first, then make a decision based on that information. Use this option to create some small wins.
- My Needs Have Changed
Always determine what a buyer needs at the beginning of the sales process. Based on those requirements, you provide a proposal. And then, all of a sudden, the needs change, and your options are no longer viable. What just happened?
Again, decision makers are very sure about what they need—until someone else provides them with a new possibility. Based on a new reality, their needs change. And because the buyer doesn't know or believe you can help, you don't get the chance to pitch.
The best way to deal with shifting needs is a one-two punch.
First, cement the benchmarks. Hopefully the buyer will remember those benchmarks when a new option pops up.
Second, keep the door open. Explain that the path to getting bigger clients has a lot of options. Tell them it will be easy to get confused and that you are available anytime to brainstorm and walk them through the possibilities. By being a resource first and potential vendor second, you stay in position to respond to any changes.
- This Is a Smoking hot Deal
In the heat of competition, things can change instantly. Many front-runners are tossed aside in favor of a large discount. Before you even know you are in trouble, the deal goes to the low-cost competitor.
What's worse is the buyer doesn't come to you to match the price or proposal. It never occurs to them that you would consider that option. And besides, the competitor probably pushed for a quick decision.
The best defense is education. When you discuss options, be sure to mention what to avoid. Help your buyer make the best decision for them even if it doesn't involve you. Because you gave the pros and cons in the conversation, the buyer has concerns about the discounted deal, came back to me, and asked for my advice. You can then talk about the differences, and leave it up to him/her to make a decision.
Any sales process is rarely linear. It is filled with twists and turns. By understanding how these twists can happen, you won't be caught by surprise when they do. Then you can respond calmly and with confidence.