This is the third part of this series that is intended to set out the core issues that need to be addressed in each part of the buyer / seller interaction so that the complementary activities of sales and marketing can work in harmony.
Where sales and marketing are integrated, it is a beautiful thing. Focused activity becomes the norm, sales forecasts are more accurate, revenue increases, and an uncommon organizational alignment is achieved, resulting in true collaborative success.
You can find the first and second posts here:
- Blueprint for Sales and Marketing Alignment - Part 1
- Select the Customer: Blueprint for Sales and Marketing Alignment - Part 2
[If you want to work along with this series, you can create a customized sales process of your own company for free at DealmakerGenius.]
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The Buyer's Perspective
Consider why sales transactions occur. A purchase is made when the buyer considers that the total cost expended is less than the total value received. The two easily identifiable aspects of this equation are ‘total cost’ and ‘value received’.
However, deals are not always won or lost on cost. Until value and pain exist in the mind of the buyer, any price is too high. Effective communication, or expression of value, is the oxygen that winning sales professionals breathe. Value is not just the list of product features and benefits matched to the buyer’s stated needs. For every overt need stated by a buyer, there is pain and consequential impact if that need is not met, or the pain is not cured. At The TAS Group, we refer to this as the Value Engagement where you help you customers to visualize their business challenges so that they, with you, can understand where your solution can be applied.
Extending the buyer’s vision, to enhance the potential gain that he envisions, is a function of true understanding of his business needs and personal and corporate goals. The vision should encompass the potential benefit to be delivered by the creative application of your product, your company, and the expertise of the salesperson. When you consider how you can align the total value you bring to the hidden, or unspoken, or even subconscious needs of the buyer, you can then begin to understand how you might express that value and create a gulf between you and your competition.
Take the time to stroll through your customer’s mind and you will find the paths to success and failure signposted. Consider why he would buy your product, and mull over why he might not. The buyer might be an individual, a company or a committee, but the phases of the purchase process are generally the same. Understand that emotions change at the different phases of the buying cycle, as the customer moves from project initiation to the risk-laden final decision. And yes, it’s a buying cycle – not a selling cycle.
Getting to understand the buyer’s perspective is about listening, probing, questioning, and navigating through a layered corporation. Before you can change it, you have to get inside the buyer’s mind. Understanding the product feature requirements, service level expectations, and the other goals of the buyer’s company, is crucial but doesn’t suffice. Personal aspirations, fears and excitement live in the mind of the buyer and must be identified. Concerns for job security sometimes battle with the ambition of the corporate buyer. Zero personal risk is generally good and sometimes the path of least resistance is the one with the signpost labeled ‘Do Nothing’. Your job is to make it easy for the buyer to buy your product. Assuming you have targeted a company in your ‘sweet spot’, then, looking at it objectively, you should have a great shot at making the sale. But companies don’t buy things – people buy things and you must understand the buyer’s perspective. This is only possible if you anticipate behavior, watch for signals, empathize and look at things from the other side of the table. You must walk in your buyer’s shoes.
In a previous post, I recounted the story of the disconnect between Mandy (the sales person) and Jack (the marketing executive). Jack had given Mandy the value proposition to present to all customers. But it appeared that in this case Jack did not know what it meant to walk in the customers shoes. It was a story of sales and marketing misalignment, and such tales are all too common. There is only one perspective that matters, and that is the customer’s. Unless both marketing and sales have a shared vision of what that is, and how it might change from customer to customer, friction will continue to exist and revenues targets will be missed.