Contributed by Tom Cates
If you’ve been around in sales as long as I have, you will have heard the same kinds of questions over and over from your sales team: “How can I really connect with my buyers? We’ve got great products and services at competitive prices but prospects just aren’t buying. What am I doing wrong? Why don’t they want to listen to me or buy from me?”
Sound familiar? It’s something we are always thinking about at Brookeside as we specialize in helping businesses improve relationships with buyers. So I was delighted to learn at a recent conference that someone else had taken a step back and explored what buyers really want. This excellent piece of research (“Making Executive Buyers Happy,” courtesy of Norbert Kriebel from Forrester) focused on B2B selling from the buyer’s point of view. I think these findings will help answer some of the questions I hear so often.
What Buyers Don’t Want
- With the plethora of channels available, businesses are pushing more and more messages to their buyers. You’ve got brochures, case studies, white papers and so on. But buyers don’t want to hear what their suppliers want them to hear – they want to hear about what will genuinely create value for them. And here’s the really crucial bit: they will decide what that is, not their suppliers.
- Buyers don’t want to read about what their suppliers think nor do they want to spend time in meetings hearing about it. Only 19% of meetings with suppliers were deemed valuable, and only 10% accepted follow up meetings. Imagine the cost of sending your people to all those meetings that do not meet the needs of their buyer in this most basic way.
- The above percentages are higher in countries other than the US. Apparently in the US, we are either particularly bad at building a valuable dialogue with our buyers or our buyers are especially demanding. I believe the answer lies somewhere in between.
What Buyers Want
What buyers do want is a conversation that recognizes their problems and articulates solutions. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Sure, but how do we know if our buyers see us a supplier who understands what they need and who is proactive in coming up with solutions? You’ll be happy to know that there is a way and I plan to share it in detail in my presentation at the Sales 2.0 Conference next week.
Here’s a preview: a conversation is all about people exchanging ideas and information to find a way to move forward together. A supplier can only recognize the complexity of a buyer’s problems and exercise the flexibility needed to find a suitable solution if they engage the buyer in an active dialogue. Off the shelf products, too often, are just not right. The hard part is earning the buyer’s trust to find out what is.
At the Sales 2.0 Conference I will focus on how you can create willing buyers. As you know, selling is fundamentally about building relationships. Build a great relationship and you will have great conversations. Buyers will see you as the person they want to work with to flesh out their problems and brainstorm solutions. They will undoubtedly want a second meeting, and a third. After all, research shows that 80% of buyers said they spend more with the suppliers they see as strategic providers.
Tom Cates is President of The Brookeside Group.