This is How Buyers Expect us to Sell


If you have read SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham you may remember his very strong and structured sales process. Sales executives would move through a Contact Phase, an Information Phase, a Persuasion Phase, and a Closing Phase. Rackham recommends that within the Information Phase, again a solid process follows: Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-payoff (SPIN).

Although the book SPIN Selling was written quite a while ago (originally published in 1988) there is no doubt that this has been one of the most successful selling processes used by the majority of sales organizations, and probably is – as of today.

From my previous postings, you may have noticed that to be successful nowadays, I do not emphasize to follow step-by-step a certain sales process. Instead, I believe that the way buyers are thinking and preparing themselves – to explore change and potentially a change of suppliers – have changed so much over the last years that we can no longer ignore this new buying behavior and hence our sales approach also need to adapt.

You may still apply all above mentioned four selling stages or another sales process for that matter; you just need to be aware that customers, having access to the internet, social media and digital networking are already through 60% of their buying cycle before you even talk to them for the first time. This is different than before. Salespeople are in the buyer’s eyes no longer the source of information. No longer have customers the patience of listening and answering so many “situation”, “problem”, “implication” and “need for pay-off” questions. Instead, they would only commit to granting you 10-15 minutes of their time if you come prepared to the table and add value at every step of their buying cycle.

They expect that you understand “their 60% of information gathering” in less than 5 minutes. What they are interested in, is information they do not know, relevant to their business pressures: the remaining 40 %. They are looking for insightful information that can help them to reflect on their current thinking and assist in making the right decisions of change.

When you first meet your prospective customer, they figure real quick what your intentions are. Will you start with a checklist of questions, or do you come prepared with insightful information? If you are not prepared, and you do not add value, you are out of the door in no time. This expectation will continue all the way to signing the deal.

You can no longer be focused on selling solutions, instead focus on the prospective customer business and try to understand what external and internal pressures they are dealing with. What challenges do they face in the future? What is their competitive strategy and how can you help them to achieve that?

You can throw traditional closing tricks out of the window. Customers have seen and heard these too many times. They expect you to put yourself in their shoes and let them stay in control of their buying process. However, the insights you bring to the table must trigger their thoughts: “In order to achieve what we want to achieve do we have the optimal set-up with our current suppliers”? or “Would changing put us in a better position”? Then you reach the stage where you, your company and your products and service are wanted. Now, let’s discuss at what price.

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