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Product versus Need: Two Different Things

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You've got the product. Seems like the prospects have the needs. But they aren't buying. Or they aren't buying in an understandable time frame. What's the deal?

The deal is that the field of sales hasn’t taught you how to manage the buying end of the product placement process. Oh, sure, you gather needs and figure out how to position your product appropriately and professionally. And you know that your product would resolve a problem. Indeed, you work hard at making sure you get into rapport well, gather needs, and promote a well-thought-out solution based on the prospect’s unique situation.

But what makes you think you really understand the full complement of people, policies, and relationships that surround, and sometimes even create, the identified problem? All you understand is that specific piece of the pie that your questions elicited or that your product can resolve. That does not mean you understand the whole situation that created and maintains the identified problem to begin with. The whole situation is far too large for your product to resolve and more complex and proprietary than you can understand.

Why hasn’t the prospect fixed his or her problem already? Why didn’t he or she buy yesterday? Sales focuses on the need and the product. Yet without managing the internal issues that keep the problem in place, nothing will change.

What makes you think that because he or she has a need and you have a product the buyer will choose to buy? Or buy now? Or buy from you? What makes you believe that ''need + product/solution + professional sales approach = sale''?

We would like to think this is true. We act as if this were true. But if it were really true, we’d close more sales. Not to mention that if the prospect’s need were so great, he or she would have already resolved his or her problem.

So knowing what a prospect needs, getting into great rapport, doing a thorough needs analysis, and becoming a trustworthy professional while selling a branded product isn’t enough.

What Does a Buyer Really Need?

There is only one thing a buyer needs. A buyer needs to resolve his or her problem. Period. Not your product. Not a good price. Not even a nice vendor. Only to resolve his or her problem.

And the problem is never so acute that the buyer needs it resolved ''now.'' If a buyer acutely needed your product or solution, he or she would have gotten it already. Let me say that again: if the buyer really needed your product, he or she would have purchased it already.

In reality, no matter how good you are, no matter how good your product is, it’s not about you. You are not Superseller; prospects won’t abide by your time frame or your view of the situation. They will do what they need to do, separate from your cajoling and separate from what appears to you to be their need or your understanding of the situation or your great product.

I once did a consulting day for a very well-known sales guru who started up a branch of his training company that did scripted cold calling for clients. I was hired to listen to what was going wrong because my client wasn’t getting the results he expected.

Because of this person’s fame and mailing list, the prospects were very high-level decision makers. I sat down in a room filled with telesales folks and listened in horror as they blew huge leads to the direct numbers of senior execs at companies most sellers would kill to get into: Chrysler, Apple, AT&T, Wal-Mart, FedEx. Click. Click. Click.

The sound of these folks being hung up on was loud. Very loud. And when I tried to intervene and give them a few tips, they politely listened and went back to doing what they were doing, assuming it was a numbers game and calling, calling, calling until they found interest.

Buyers Only Buy When Their Systems Allow Them To

Did these sales folks have a need? Nope. They were happy with their results (less than 2%) because they expected the results they were getting, expected to be hung up on, and the results were built into the budget.

Would I have been able to increase their results with my ''product''? Yep. By hundreds of percentage points. But although I had a solution that would resolve a problem, they didn’t have a business problem they wanted to resolve.

(Believe it or not, profits don’t count in the sales game. I once trained a well-known insurance carrier. We got a 600% increase over their normal numbers and also saved thousands of dollars monthly in gas and travel. We brought them from 110 visits and 18 closed sales in a month to 27 visits and 25 closed sales. But the sales reps were angry; they were field reps, they cried. They didn’t want to be on the telephone so much, even if it meant more income (double). They were miserable. Plus, they needed additional coaching while learning buying facilitation, and their peers were getting annoyed because the peers weren’t getting the same coaching support, believing that they’d bring in more business if they had more coaching, etc. They began calling the head office and complaining also. With everyone complaining so loudly, the company fired the man who brought me in and ended my contract. With a 600% increase in sales. Obviously the money counted less than ensuring a cozy system that didn’t like change. Go figure.)

When I told my client what was happening in the call center and what was going wrong, he took the feedback well. As a result, he had an all-day meeting with the folks to walk through their desire to change. Apparently (so I was told later), they all threatened to leave rather than change. And since several of them were my client’s grandchildren (!), he wanted them to be happy more than he wanted them to be successful. He called me to thank me for the good work and told me he’d decided to change his expectations rather than disrupt the team in any way.

And there you have it: buyers have their own unique internal craziness (and they all have some form of unique craziness) that has led them to their status quo and needs to be reoriented in some way before they will change. So, basically, the sad news (for us) is that buyers really don’t need what we are selling. But we can sell more if we add a new job description: neutral navigator — a guide that points out the areas of change necessary for everything to line up behind a buying decision.

What Is Our Job?

Sales has been about product placement and becoming the type of professional that a prospect would trust. I was recently a keynote at a sales challenge and watched while the young folks made mock sales calls and then competed with each other to see who was best.

I watched while they entered the room of a prospect and proceeded (after some moments of rapport/rapport/rapport) to arduously go about gathering data and scrunching up their faces while they seriously, oh so seriously, understood the needs. After the student used great understanding-type questions and then gravely offered an oh-so-relevant pitch, the prospect would throw up objections: ''We already have a vendor. Why should I use you? Are you cheaper? How do I know how to trust you?''

The students were prepared for objections, and each came to the sessions with books of testimonials — again, offering great data to get the prospect to make a decision on their behalf. (Objections are merely a defense against being pushed, so I know when my coachees or trainees are telling me about objections that they were pushing their own agendas.)

If the students were truly helping the buyers make decisions to choose them as new vendors rather than focusing on getting in the door, they would start off by bringing the whole decision team together. How will you and your decision team know when it is time to bring in an additional vendor? (Note: if the decision team doesn’t make this decision, nothing will change, no matter how scrupulously the seller has gathered data — not to mention that the seller won’t know if they are unhappy with their regular vendor or if that vendor offers the exact same type of support that the seller is promoting.)

Until or unless a buyer comes up with his or her own answers and recognizes all of the criteria that will have to be met before anything can change, offering product data or doing information gathering or needs analysis is irrelevant. So, in contrast to what you have been taught, you must approach a needs analysis or information gathering after the buyer has figured out how to manage the internal issues that will be included in a buying decision. My telling you I’m a great hairdresser and showing you awards I’ve received is irrelevant if you have a long-standing hairdresser or don’t want a haircut.

Let’s approach sales as a two-phased process: first help the buyer to recognize and manage the internal issues that have created and maintained the status quo, and then lead him or her through the resolution of these factors (such as a dad that likes the current vendor or a team not wanting to change their software). Once buyers recognize what needs to be managed internally so that the internal changes are ready to adopt something new, do your normal sales job. After all, nothing will happen until these internal issues get addressed and managed, and as sellers you sit and wait for that anyway. You might as well be a part of the process rather than sitting and waiting for a call to come in.

You have nothing to sell if your client has nothing to buy — separate from whether there is a need or whether your product would solve his or her problem. Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy?

If you want to learn how to help buyers figure out when/if/how to align all of their internal systems so they can buy from you, read my e-book Buying Facilitation: The New Way to Sell that Expands and Influences Decisions ( In it there is a full explanation of what buyers’ buying decisions must entail and how to approach them to help them manage their buying decisions. And good luck!

About Morgen Facilitations Inc.

So many of you are complaining that sales are taking too long and that you aren’t familiar with the members of the decision team until too far along in the sales cycle. If you want to get the full complement of decision team members on board quickly, or if you want to help buyers come up with buying decisions more quickly, call Sharon Drew Morgen for coaching with you or your entire sales team. With any type of client situation, she will walk you through the fact patterns and show you how to influence the buyer’s decision-making process. She’ll also help you shorten your sales cycle (one-third the normal time), no matter how small or large your solution, and help you find 25% more prospects. Call Sharon Drew Morgen at 512-457-0246 for a free 15-minute session and discover how powerful her facilitative coaching model is — clean, quick, and powerful. Plus, her ability to get straight to the heart of the problem is impressive.
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