As a former B2B buyer, manager and senior executive, I believe many sellers’ opinions about understanding buyer behaviour are fundamentally behind the curve. Years of “traditional sales training” continue to have a (mostly negative) impact on how sellers and buyers interact.
Don’t believe me ? Let’s take a deeper look at the sales language we use on a daily basis. I am talking about things like overcoming objections, challenging your buyer, “hitting your targets”, …
I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds a lot like we’re at war or something. This language descends down from an old style “command and control” model where the seller was in charge, and the buyer had precious little information to go on and was heavily dependent on the seller to tell them what they needed to know. This is no longer the case.
(How to) influence buyer behaviour in three key ways.
Buyers today are much more educated, much more informed, much more aware of their options and have done massively more research before they are ever in front of the seller. In fact, our own research at RAIN Group clearly shows that “collaboration” is one of the biggest factors that buyers value from sellers.
The number one reason why buyers choose one firm over another is because the seller educated them with new ideas and perspectives.
1. Collaborate with your buyer.
But the number two reason is: because the seller collaborated with them. In other words, they made a significant contribution to the conversation. Buyers and sellers developed these new ideas and perspectives together, rather than laying them on the buyer and saying, “You know what? Here is the holy gospel. This is what I believe you should do.”
Taking a collaborative approach where you help the buyer sharpen their thinking, think through the different options, identify the potential risks and pitfalls, and together construct the best approach moving forward is definitely the way to go today.
I can’t stress how much this attitude of collaboration is valued by buyers. As a former Fortune 50 financial services executive, I have had the good fortune of working with dozens – if not hundreds – of senior executives on the buying side in a buying process.
And as a former “insider”, I can tell you that nothing works better to influence buyer behaviour by a senior executive or manager inside a large or midsized corporation than someone from the outside who is coming in, gives them an external perspective, helps them sharpen their thinking and helps them identify and address and mitigate the risks and the pitfalls they are facing.
2. Help them help themselves.
Another great way for helping the buyer along is to help them build a business case and help them make the internal sale.
This process also revolves almost entirely around collaboration. Most sellers see “developing the business case” as a process where they cook up some ROI model in a spreadsheet, and then come in and present that to the buyer.
Savvy sellers know it’s about understanding and developing an opinion of the factors, drivers, monetary and non-monetary elements – and how to combine them. Then, it’s about developing some intelligent scenarios together in terms of what a potential investment and return may look like. But doing it together, not in isolation.
Keep in mind that in today’s world, most buyers don’t have a set budget. They’ll have funds they can tap into, but rarely if ever are those allocated to something specific like the product or service that you might be selling. Rather than developing fancy ROI spreadsheets, your job is to help your buyer build the business case and help them sell it internally to their constituents.
3. Act like a valued advisor (not a salesperson).
Probably the biggest shift I have seen, in terms of what makes sellers successful in the post-recession, post-2007/2008 world is that most sellers today who are successful act like consultants – not sellers.
In other words, they adopt a collaborative approach from the start, working with their buyers towards a joint goal. I know this sounds quaint and perhaps even a little cliché, but it’s really taking that approach of “us versus the problem”, rather than “you versus me”.
Think collaboration, not confrontation. Help your buyer build a business case together and make the internal sales to their constituents, to their peers, to their management team. And finally, think and act like a consultant first, and a seller second. Three practical, easy-to-implement yet powerful ideas to help you influence buyer behaviour.