For most of my professional career, I’ve been the one selling rather than buying. The one providing the solution rather than the one looking for it.
However, founding my own company has presented me with a rare opportunity to really experience the sales process from the other side. And like most entrepreneurs and founders, I get approached and pitched A LOT.
I’ve got to tell you though – it has never been more clear that we as salespeople (or anyone who sells) really struggle to put ourselves in the shoes of the people we are approaching.
To understand our buyer’s experience and help them achieve their goals.
That said, I want to write about a couple things I’ve been consistently experiencing as someone now in the buyer’s seat. Things which have stood out to me as repetitive problems that people regularly shoot themselves in the foot with during their sales process.
They are problems that ANYONE who sells – founders, solopreneurs, salespeople, VC’s, etc. – should be aware of and look out for as they sell.
They fail to understand and articulate their buyer’s needs.
I’m not kidding when I say there is absolutely nothing more important to a buyer than feeling like you really get them and what they need from you. NOTHING.
Case in point – this website. I’ve been trying to redesign it for well over 7 months now and it seems like everywhere I turn, people simply do not slow down to really think about things from my perspective.
- I’ve talked to companies that charge like they’re a 5-star hotel but offer a product/service that’s more like a Motel 6.
- I’ve talked to companies whose idea of a sales process was “so… what do you want to know?” and then proceed to ramble on about their business.
- I’ve talked to companies who have tried to ram a high volume lead-gen solution down my throat when I’ve explicitly stated that I’m a low volume business.
And truth be told, I’m hella frustrated.
Folks – buying is an emotional process. And anyone who sells should never take that lightly.
For the ATP website, there are a lot of risks associated with this purchase decision – especially since I’ve already had two people run me around.
Furthermore, I’m far from a web design expert. So I have to be able to trust that anyone I decide to work with truly has my best interests in mind. And that’s not easy when you can’t check if what they did was right or not!
But the truth is, the people we reach out to as salespeople are in exactly the same position as I am. And in my 20 years in sales, failing to demonstrate (due to either ignorance or selfishness) that we understand our buyer’s needs is one of the biggest reasons they simply don’t buy from us.
That’s why our number one job as people who sell is to build an unshakeable confidence in our buyers that we have their best interests in mind. And to do that, we have to slow down and take the time to understand them and show them we do.
Simply put, you have to diagnose before you prescribe. And furthermore, you have to make sure the buyer trusts the diagnosis before they are going to be willing to accept it. So, do your discovery. And then do some rediscovery.
Make absolutely sure you know what they really need first before you pitch. It takes more time and effort, but if you do this every time, I guarantee your success rate will start going up.
They over promise to get the sale and then under deliver.
Continuing with my website example, I’ve had people give me a project timeline and then after the deal was signed, tell me that the estimated timeline they gave me was the low end of what to expect and that it likely could take longer.
No, no, no!
This leaves all kinds of doubts in my mind as to what other surprises are going to pop up later. I mean, if they felt they had to misrepresent this to get my business… what else did they misrepresent to do so?
What surprises are still waiting for me?
As I said above, buying is an emotional experience. And no one likes feeling baited and switched.
That’s why one of our biggest priorities as people who sell is to manage our buyer’s expectations for them. In fact, it is absolutely essential, because customer satisfaction follows the same predictable equation that psychologists use for happiness:
Happiness = Reality/Expectations
That’s why our goal as people who sell should always be to “increase reality” and “decrease expectations” respectively. The number one way we can do that is to make sure we’re over-delivering and under-promising each and every time with things like:
- Customer service
If we do those things better than our buyers expect, it’s a surefire way to create happy clients every single time.
They fail to follow through on the little things.
Not long ago, I was in the market for a particular service (not web design lol) and had someone reach out to me with an offer to chat. Needless to say, I took them up on it!
However, they didn’t show up for the call. And I quickly wrote that solution off entirely.
Simply put, it’s not a good sign as a buyer when you’re motivated to have a call and they blow you off. I mean, I’m ready to talk about giving you money – but if you can’t keep a simple appointment to discuss it, the chances of that happening just evaporated.
Sadly, things like this are an epidemic in the sales world. It happens ALL. THE. TIME.
Folks, keeping the little commitments you make matters. Even the smallest stuff, like saying you’ll send an email at a certain time. They are the “tells” that buyers will use to determine whether you’re trustworthy or not.
I mean, if I can’t trust you to follow through on the little things… how am I going to trust you to follow through on the big things?
Going back to the previous point, don’t make little commitments you can’t keep. Manage your buyer’s expectations appropriately with these things too.
Remember, under promise, over deliver. With everything!
Most of this really boils down to two things: empathy and integrity. Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes and do what you say you’re going to do… or better.
That’s really it!
However, that’s where a lot of people who sell also ruin their chances… often without realizing it. So make sure to do the discovery work up front and that every touch point with a lead or customer shows them you’re worth trusting.