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Managing the Conservative Buyer

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    Three Adjustments Sales Organisations Can Make

    The volume of b2b buying activity is rising. This is music to all our ears. However, with increased volume comes more and more no decisions; amounting to nearly half of all b2b buying efforts, according to Gartner.

    This is a staggeringly high figure and one that analysts expect to continue. There is no doubt that the conservative buyer will be present in our sales pipelines for the foreseeable future.

    The conservative buyer is faced with an increasingly non-linear buying journey internally, making the sales process even more arduous than before. For the seller it means the likelihood of an opportunity changing mid-deal is even greater. For the buyer there will be added layers of sign off complexity to navigate to get their purchases over the line.

    Sales organisations must review how they qualify and plan sales in order to;

    • support the customer through their buying process,
    • protect themselves from wasted effort.

    So, what adjustments can sales organisations make? Let’s start by looking at pipeline qualification.

    1) A Pipeline Qualification Mindset

    In the language of selling, a qualification method can be applied in different ways;

    • to qualify an opportunity in or out,
    • to qualify each aspect of the opportunity; budget, decision-process, timescales, etc,
    • to identify what additional work is needed to overcome hurdles in the sale,
    • all of the above.

    When qualifying an opportunity in complex sales, a number of points will initially arise. Later, some points will have been resolved but new issues will arise. Qualification is therefore not a single point in time event as you may not have all the answers up front. There is also no magic moment at which you can firmly say that the sale is qualified, until it is won.

    To overcome issues with a conservative buyer, qualification needs to be a clearly articulated, continuous, three-way process;

    • Everything is good,
    • Some aspects about the opportunity are bad, putting the deal at risk,
    • There is information missing about the deal that we must find out.

    SCOTSMAN® sets out the work needed by the seller, to find answers and progress the opportunity positively. If there are showstoppers identified, which could derail things later down the line, the seller can work to overcome them. Only when there are too many negatives, that the seller cannot not overcome, would they walk away.

    Once a seller knows the hurdles that they must attempt to overcome to progress an opportunity, what tools can they use to guide the buyer through their buying process?

    2) Selling Timetables

    As a major sale develops, it is important that the sales team keep their activities in line with those of the buying team.  It is often imagined that the process of buying is very clear cut. The buyer has a number of options, each with a different set of consequences, there is a system of preferences that allows the ranking of the options, etc. It is often far less linear however.

    Gartner CSO research suggests that b2b buyers feel overloaded with organisational complexity and are facing;

    • roadblocks,
    • unclear decision-making,
    • conflicting priorities.

    The buyer’s psychological state will change several times during the buying process, especially if this type of purchase is not one they have made before.

    The seller must determine the correct steps to support the customer through their buying process and must be equipped with the know-how for gaining commitments that will help keep the deal on track.

    By setting out a timetable and putting dates in diaries, including access to key executives and documenting their major decision criteria, the seller can;

    • find out if the customer is serious,
    • get the sale rolling,
    • support the customer in reaching their purchasing goal.

    If they try to establish a timetable and fail, the seller may be better off spending their time elsewhere.

    3) Reflective Stages of Sale

    Stages of sale need to be more reflective of the buying cycle, rather than the selling process. Too often, stages of sale are mapped to what the seller has done, e.g., sent a proposal or given evidence, which tell you very little about where the buyer is on their purchasing journey.

    The best way to tie the stage of sale to the buying process is by mapping it to when the customer does something. It makes a great deal of sense to determine progress from one stage of sale to the next by the tangible outcomes/signs of progression on the buyer side.

    The market is tough, but buyers still like to buy. The big danger with big sales is that sellers get so involved in activity; such as the politics, demonstrations and sales meetings, that they are not reminded to step back and consider whether the customer is demonstrably at the point of progression anticipated.

    By making small adjustments in these three key areas, sellers will have the right mindsets, buyers will be able to buy and targets won’t be missed.

    For more on qualification and commitments, take a look at our white paper.

    For more on selling timetables, take a look at our eBook.

    Visit our People Development page for information about our training.

    Mike Wilkinson
    Mike Wilkinson
    Managing Director Advance - Creators of SCOTSMAN®