With a focus on the psychology of buyers, you might see the world through a different lens like this month's In Pursuit of Growth podcast guest, Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer at Corporate Visions. Tim helped walk me through why it's important to look at things a little differently to engage today's buyers.
My question to Tim was:
"Why aren't we getting the engagement we need?"
Tim's answer was both simple and straightforward:
"You've got to have something to say."
He and his team at Corporate Visions study human decision-making, and how buyers are making choices. Tim explained that as salespeople, we're at war with people's tendency to stick with the status quo—and we underestimate how much inertia is there to get anybody interested. As Tim puts it:
"Salespeople have to think of themselves not as selling solutions, but as selling change management...and nobody wants that (change)."
The truth is, salespeople are fighting against sunk costs. This is why "no decision" is such a common decision. Executive decision-makers have so much invested in their current solutions that the perceived cost of change—and all of the burdens associated with that change—is overwhelming. And it's not just about money. It's also the time and consensus-building that it takes to make a change. It all aligns with the old adage, "The pain I know is better than the risk of the pain I don't know."
Another issue in this war of perceptions falls on salespeople and their habit of focusing on features, benefits, and results—rather than working to make a buyer's change burden easier. Although the product or service may be great for the buyer, the perceived discomfort of change may not be worth the risk to him.
The Psychology of Change
Salespeople have to trigger something to make prospects rethink their current approach. Take a look at your current presentations and demos. Are they showing off your product, and what it can do? Or, are they helping buyers actually shift their current state of thinking and realize the cost of not making a change?
Tim suggests that salespeople should broaden their horizons beyond the sales process to include time spent understanding how humans make decisions, change management, and how to move organizations to transform. This helps reps to be equipped to deal with situations that revolve more around change than the products or the people involved in the sale.
Decision Makers May Be Lying
It's not their fault, but when would-be buyers tell you what it will take to get the deal, there's another subconscious layer they won't be able to communicate: what it will take to make a change. They might be able to tell you what it will take to justify, or validate the change—but is that enough to gain the momentum necessary to close the deal?
Tim conveyed that this happens in a part of the brain that doesn't have the capacity for language. It's not that they want to be dishonest, they simply can't tell you what it will take to walk away from the status quo.
What Salespeople Should Do
Besides learning about change management, and how humans make decisions, salespeople can dig deeper yet.
Build trust by showing the decision-makers that you know their industry and where it's headed. Share that you know what is working for other companies you work with, and that you understand the goals they are trying to achieve. Do this by asking questions that help uncover their thoughts and what the future looks like. Then help them see outcomes they may not have thought about.
Tim suggests sharing the work you've previously done with other customers like them. Giving them a peek into what those companies are doing is a perspective they rarely get insight into. He shared a great way to phrase it,
"We work with dozens of companies that look and act like yours. One of the things we find whenever we go into those companies is that they seem to be missing these three things, and they didn't understand...how big, how bad or how fast."
He explained that when you share information like that, you share a perspective that's interesting and they lean into the message. This is especially true of senior execs. They are keenly interested in understanding what others, like themselves, are doing to handle challenges or growth opportunities. They have FOMO, or what Tim coined as FOFB (Fear of Falling Behind). Being able to hear about the latest problem, risk, or opportunity they might not know about is valuable—and can get you a meeting. Tim reiterates,
"And that's the thing that's valuable. If you want to be a trusted advisor, you're going to tell me some things about people that look like me—and that might mean something to me. If you just come back and tell what I already told you, you're not a trusted advisor—you're just a tape recorder."
Reps must look for that way to add surprising value by sharing unique and insightful information.
An approach that Tim suggests, and is supported by research, is the DIQ Method:
Before a salesperson starts in with the questions, they need to have some data and insight.
Throw away the BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline) questions. The business environment is no longer in the 1980s, and this is not a "Why Change?" conversation starter. I still see this all the time, and BANT questions just don't get to the heart of the matter—nor do they move the deal forward. I'm not downplaying that a rep doesn't need to know these things, but if there's valuable data and insight shared that causes the decision-makers to believe that the change needed is worth the pain of making the change, they will answer all your BANT questions without any prompting.
Once they've decided to change, it's amazing how a budget can become available. At that point, they start caring about ROI, and discussions become valuable.
It's time to stop losing deals to "No decision."
Listen to learn more about:
- How emotion plays into the decision.
- Why end-of-the-month price lowering doesn't work.
- Why doing work on the front end speeds up the sales process.
- Why status quo is your biggest enemy.
Do you want to win? Then inspire! You have to add value to each conversation. Tim says,
"Your stuff has to live in THEIR story and stop forcing them to love your story."
Are you aware that 74% of B2B buying decisions are given to the company that inspires the buying vision? What are your salespeople doing to inspire their customer's visions? How are you enabling them to do that? I only gave you some highlights here—you won't want to miss this lively conversation.