One of the most difficult things about being an entrepreneur is sales. Even the greatest ideas can bankrupt a company simply because the sales team fails to empathize with the buyer. The buyer, after all, has a lot riding on a big purchase from a relatively unknown company and first and foremost wants to make sure he or she is making a good decision.
I’ve been on both sides of the table when it comes to purchasing, and I'm still befuddled over how difficult some people find it to sell something that a prospective customer wants and needs. Sales isn’t exactly alchemy, after all -- a mysterious black art incomprehensible to all but a few. Instead, it amounts to answering some pretty basic questions that the purchaser has as he or she mulls an expenditure (which may have to be justified up the line):
1. Do I need this?
This question would seem to be pretty easy to discern with some basic prospecting, but it goes deeper. The real question is, do I need this now, and do I need it from this particular vendor? What will happen if I don’t buy this, or if I wait? Who else sells this product?
2. Do I want this?
The old adage, “When you sell hammers, the whole world looks like a nail” is oh-so-true in sales. Too often, the salesperson wants the sale far more than the buyer wants the offering. As the fictitious con man Angel Martin (remember The Rockford Files?) once said, “Nobody ever made a thin dime selling people what they need; you gotta sell them what they want.”
3. Can I afford this?
When a buyer asks, “Can I afford this?” the question is more than financial. The buyer is also asking whether or not spending money on this offering will harm his or her boss’ perception of the buyer’s performance. Careers have been ruined because a person made a colossal mistake that began with a bad purchase.
4. Do I understand this?
Sales teams love to make their offerings sound cutting edge and sophisticated. They put together lengthy slide decks and offer jargon-filled answers to prospective customers’ questions. The problem is, the buyer needs to be able to quickly and simply defend the purchase; the longer the pitch or the answer, the more likely the buyer is to believe he or she is making a bad decision -- and to proceed to sink the sale.
Related: Dealstorming Will Help You Sell More
5. Do I trust this?
Buyers need to believe that the offering they are considering will solve a business problem or improve their operations in some way. They need to trust that the company selling to them can deliver on every promise it's made. Buyers also need to believe that the individual sales representative can be trusted to be there after the sale concludes.
6. Can I defend this?
Much of the business decision-making process centers on whether or not a buyer can defend making the purchase when lower-cost solutions are available. A good sales rep can equip the buyer with tangible reasons why this purchase is the best available option: This requires demonstrating quality (cheaper isn’t always better!), a substantial and quick return on investment and/or considerable improvements to the operation of the business.