To be trusted you have to start with respecting the buyer’s viewpoint
As predicted by all of the major research firms, buyers now expect more from salespeople, they want to speak to someone who adds value to the conversation, shares ideas and gives insights.
As salespeople we have to recognize that we must earn the right to have that type of conversation; we cannot just turn up and start to tell the buyer everything we know. Quite comically my colleagues and I frequently see this executed badly when people try to sell to us – together with the obligatory pleading follow up suggesting that we owe them a response, come on really, how dare I ignore them? But that’s going to be the subject of a future piece. We must recognize and accept that only when the buyer feels that th
eir perspective is understood and respected will they truly be open to hearing alternative views.
Let’s think about what that perspective may be. To do this we have to think like the buyer, and specifically look into what buyers will be thinking as they enter the conversation.
- What clarity do I have about what I want/need?
- I know exactly what I want/need; just give me a price!
- I am pretty sure I know what I want, but I have a few questions…
- I have no idea what I need (how often does this happen given the ease of internet research? It might be good to find out)
- What am I hoping to achieve from the meeting with the salesperson?
- Just give me the information I ask for, no more, no less, or I will be annoyed.
- Give me the information I ask for, but I’m open to additional information if offered respectfully.
- Guide me through this buying decision
As buyers we have all experienced the frustration of a mismatch of expectation between buyer and seller.
How often have you:
- Wanted someone to actually to help you make a decision, give you advice, and all they wanted to do was talk about one product. What do you do, go elsewhere?
- Alternatively, have you ever had a conversation when you knew exactly what you wanted and the salesperson has not listened and made it hard to buy? In that case have you been tempted to just go online?
A simple check to understanding where the Buyer is in their thinking, is how the first engagement came about:
- If they approach you it is likely that they are already thinking about change and either have
- identified a solution or are looking for help to identify a solution.
- If you are approaching them, you have to assume that they are happy with their current situation and you have to create a reason to change.
In both cases we have to start by hearing their position before offering an alternative. If we want to offer an alternative perspective, we must first acknowledge that we have heard, understood and respect the buyer’s initial position. Key to this acknowledgement is validation of understanding, which ensures we lead the discussion with the buyer’s perspective of what they want to buy, and know, etc.
Validation is a simple process, it starts by playing back what has been said and then allows you to share an insight and ask a question about the impact of that statement, e.g.
- “Just to ensure I have fully understood, you wish to buy a nail gun to hang some pictures. Can I just check whether you have a new build as the property might have plasterboard walls and there might be alternative approaches to hanging a picture?”
- “I fully appreciate you are happy with your existing supplier, and I know they have just posted an increase in profits. To help me understand the value you currently get from the supplier would you be happy to share with me the things they do for you that deliver value to you and your business?”
In both of these examples, we are not saying the buyer’s viewpoint is wrong, but we are using their viewpoint as a kick-off point to gain a better understanding and potentially offer a different perspective.
Always remember that we must understand the buyer’s perspective before making assumptions that we can, or must, change their perspective. It’s risky to come from a belief that the buyer is likely to be wrong and in need of a course correction. It might be just the opposite. Find out for sure, then communicate your knowledge of that and respect for it.
Once the buyer feels secure that they have been listened to, they become more open to alternative thinking and upselling because they can relax a bit. Some trust has been built.
As a parting thought, remember how you feel when a salesperson ignores your viewpoint after you have done all your research to identify what you believe is the right solution. Buyers are not stupid. Sometimes they just don’t have all the relevant information, but sometimes they actually do and have it right.
If we wanted to be trusted we must start by respecting the buyer’s viewpoint, validate our understanding of this perspective and use this as the start point to broaden the conversation by sharing ideas and insights.