( My column as appeared in UpMarket Magazine Week of Jan. 15th )
As sales people try to become more efficient during economic upturns i.e. Handle more sales using more efficient means. Buyers do something similar but in the opposite direction during economic downturns. They become efficient at being inefficient.
At first this may seem as a play on words or it makes no sense, however I’ll assure that not only is it true, but it can be a powerful way companies, families, or just about anyone uses when they don’t want to commit to purchase, invest, change, etc.
A great example of this was identified in a recent corporate earnings release from Oracle®. As I was listening to a financial network give highlights on the report I heard what deemed as a throw away line for most. But to my ears it wasn’t. One of the reasons they asserted for sales being pushed back into latter quarters was (I’m paraphrasing) “Companies have added more management layers to the decision-making process hence increasing the time in the purchasing approval process.” That line is very telling if you’re truly listening. The way most salespeople react to this type of information will also distinguish the average from the super stars.
In today’s economic climate many salespeople will end up spinning their wheels more than ever because buyers have greased the tracks. What buyers of every stripe will do when implementing this technique is to give salespeople just enough hope that what is actually a no sale can possibly turn into a sale once the right person approves the purchase order, or the budget gets allocated, or their boss signs off, and on, and on. This also allows the possible buyer to keep all their options open while continually dragging along the resources of the sales persons time in endless negotiations with other levels of management. Deals that were assumed to be agreed upon suddenly find themselves undercut by some competitor while they were waiting for the approval that was “promised” to be any time now.
The only efficient way of dealing with it is to get back to the fundamentals so many forget or disregard. Is the person you are in front of the one who can authorize the sale or write the check if an agreement is made today. Anyone that can not perform that task is a gate-keeper not a true buyer. The time you’ll spend spinning your wheels in front of gate-keepers is time lost not searching out a true economic buyer. You must qualify, qualify, qualify. Only when you are in front of the person responsible for cutting the check or giving the final approval should you be giving your real sales pitch for them to buy. All other talking should be directed at getting you there. If you can’t get in front of the real buyer, then stop wasting your breath, time, or resources and move onto looking for another prospect because one thing is for sure.
An efficient sales process is only valid once the check has been cashed and cleared the bank. As of this writing “Sounds good, I’ll get purchasing to take a look at it.” or ” Send me a proposal so I can show it to my boss.” or “I’m waiting to hear what they think.” is not accepted anywhere as legal tender.
© 2012 Mark St.Cyr All Rights Reserved