There is a high potential that you may be selling well but closing poorly.
Interest is created by benefits, but sales will close based on safety. The bigger the sale, the truer this is.
A quick story
One of our clients was selling into a top 5 retailer who needed in-store marketing and signage. The superiority of their product was agreed to by all. The service was also deemed superior. The pricing was more than competitive. Yet, the buyer would not buy. Why? The prospect said, “We hate our current provider!” Still, they would not sign. The benefits—better product, service, and price—were not enough. The issue was fear. The buyer was scared of their own company. The buyer did not think that its people and facilities could handle the change in vendors. Our client was able to overcome the fears and close the sale, but it was the lesson that being best is often not enough.
What created this mess?
Best should win, right? Here are a few of the driving reasons why safe is beating out being better when selling big sales:
- Hiring freeze or staff reduction
- Anticipated cost of change
- Time constraints
Companies are afraid of making decisions because of risk. They are afraid of being wrong more than they are interested in being right.
The typical fears of companies are still in place; unanticipated expenses, FOMO because of possible technology advancements, internal politics of the prospect. These and other resistance issues are still in place. However, in the current period of dramatic uncertainty, the standard response to ideas is freezing with the current ideas.
What to do?
- Be similar. When introducing your solution to a buyer that replaces an entrenched provider, the more you can eliminate places of interruption into the in-place processes and people, the more comfortable buyers will be. No one wants interruption to their current operating environment. As sales professionals, we often time describe the overall benefits that we bring and the “big change” that will happen by purchasing from our company. Very scary. However, my experience has been to present all the things that will not change. This means that I look for everything I can find, even the silly and the small. Why? The more I can show that there will be fewer changes in the way the business operates, the more comfort everyone at the buyer’s table is.
- Be easy. Frictional costs of changeover; time, training, quality control, interruption. These are all an anticipated, often unstated, fear. The buyers want the better solution that you have promised. They just can’t calculate the expense and risk of making the change. This means a thorough, painfully thorough, plan for the transition. Who carries most of the effort to make the move happen? No surprise, you do. It is about how the changeover will be relatively easy. There is no credible statement you can make that can declare “frictionless.” It is better to convince the buyers that the change will be endurable, or at the very least, easy enough to move forward. Thoroughness of your transition plan needs to provide a deep timeline, identified people, check points for determining successful transition, and contingency plans. This may feel like overkill. IT IS! The level of fear demands that you overkill the safety in order to close your big sales.
- Be quiet. One of our clients sells a complete set of employee benefits with a cafeteria style of purchase. Simply put, employees could make choices about their 401K contribution, deductibles and health coverage, HSAs and other benefits. Our client’s competitors were presenting a 3-day series of meetings, like college recruitment days. Employees would go from booth to booth for their benefit consultation with each specialist. Very loud, very confusing and in some cases upsetting. Our client offers a simple portal for preference profile check-off form. A proposed package is sent to the employee and a consultation is set up. Quiet. Personal. Less intrusive. Big sales with possibly big impacts are often more appealing if the changes are quieter.
A great deal of time is spent by sales and marketing discussing messaging. Wordsmithing is arduous. Websites are changed and sales tools are built. These are critical for creating interest and securing an executive buyer. This message will take your sales process up to the close. Closing requires its own messaging. The same attention to detail for the close—tools, website, talk-track—as was created for the opening. Pipelines are built on interest and excitement of new prospects. Closed business is created by safe purchases by your future clients.