The buyer’s process

If you’re an entrepreneur or a freelancer or a business development expert you’ve been shown the door, brushed off, asked not to contact again or worst, been told: “they’ll think about it and get back to you.” Right? If that’s you, then let me tell you one thing — I’ve been there myself and can totally feel you.

Trust me, it’s not your fault. You just go in with the best of intentions — a great product or service to offer that will (in your opinion) resolve some of their biggest challenges. The prospects like you too and then when you’re just about to ask them for the sale… POOF! They’re gone!

Billions of dollars have been spent to understand the most perfect sales process that’ll not only get your foot in the door but have you walk out of the same door with a million (or multi-million?) dollar check! The challenge is that these sales processes aren’t buyer-centric but seller-centric. Which simply means that none of these processes or frameworks actually account for the buyer or his/her psychology.

Sure, we go into a “discovery” call to explore their needs or understand their requirements (for inbound, mostly). Or perhaps invite them for a meeting/call that will give you more insights about their business, challenges and explore how you fit in the “bigger scheme of things.” But the agenda is almost always ours.

We barely make an effort to think from the buyer’s point of view. As in really, understand what’s on their mind. What could possibly be their process when it comes to a sale? It looks like this:

  1. Appear to be interested
  2. Extract as much information from you (free consulting on your part)
  3. Avoid commitment (or worse, ask you to fly to a different city to meet you… because their “needs” cannot be discovered on a phone call or they feel “uncomfortable” discussing their challenges on phone…. yeah, WTF?)
  4. Disappear (nobody does it better than them!)

The process above might seem like an exaggeration but it’s the closest to the truth any buyer would ever be! So, the best case scenario for anyone trying to gauge a fit with a prospect is to be prepared and expect them to default to their “proven” process.

I wish I had an antidote. The only viable solution that works (at least for me) is to really understand their situation, the challenges and the pain they (the prospect, not the company) are experiencing. Once you lend your ears to their woes, you’ve earned their respect, trust, and attention. That allows you to map your solutions to their challenges before you have an opportunity to introduce your products and/or services.

Most sellers talk about their products or services first, without even trying to understand what’s on the buyer’s mind. This should ideally be embedded into the sales process/framework (whatever you’re following, there are so many of them!) you’re following. And the best processes gives you (the seller) the freedom to just tell the buyer that they’re really not a good fit for your business.

I’ve done that and it’s so darn liberating!

Of course, this is impractical if you’re starving to death. But then if you’re not selling useless knick-knacks that can be sold over a phone, the complex sale usually takes time. Sometime close to a few years!

Be patient. And most importantly, know your opposition’s intentions.