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Who has it harder - the seller or the buyer?

· Transparency,differentiation

Getting comfortable with the answer to this question changed a lot for me - it made me a better selling professional, leader and now decision science nerd.

Years ago, as a seller, I thought, "This sales thing is really hard!"

Years later as a C-Level exec, I realized, "Selling is challenging, buying is hard."

Here's what I mean...

As a seller...

"So much of how I'm measured and paid is out of my control."


"I'm stressed! I need this deal to hit my target."


▪️ Selling was what I did every day.

▪️ I was trained to do it - from navigating my way into accounts and through the process, aligning my positioning, nailing the presentation & demo, to negotiating the details.

▪️ We had sales processes established to optimize the process, tools and technology to support those processes, marketing developing demand and case studies to support every step along with resources and expertise in our own organization assigned to help.

As a buyer...

"This sucks. Why can't I just buy it and be done with it?"


▪️ Buying wasn’t my job. I almost never did it.

▪️ I had targets to hit. Making a purchase never impacted the target in front of me. Instead, it was typically to help increase the odds of achieving future targets.

▪️ I had multiple people to "sell" on the purchase - starting with MYSELF! Yes, there were individuals
"selling" me, but a buyer isn't "sold", a buyer is triggered to make a purchase decision once achieving the proper balance between reward & priority versus effort & resource.

▪️ There was no process for how I had to go buy something. And anything I was buying was likely both the first time and the last time I would ever buy anything like it! I had to go figure it out.

  • As a CRO, do you know how often I thought about my "spending" budget? Almost never. We discussed it during annual planning, but when it came down to allocating it, I had to go determine what there was to spend.
  • In many cases, what we had allocated didn't match the requirement - so I either had to (a) negotiate hard, or (b) create budget.
  • As a CRO, I couldn't just go spend the company's money on my own. I now had to go figure out who else needed to be cool with this purchase aside from me.

As a seller, you have proven messaging developed by a team of marketers, tested amongst current customers & prospects, practiced and internalized.

As a buyer, I had to take your messaging, then develop my own messaging to sell your solution to those within my own organization to gain "consensus" and approval. I'm putting together my own value proposition, and in most cases ROI, based on my perspective from what I've learned during the evaluation.

In other words, I had to pitch my boss (my CEO) on my desire to spend the company's money! I remember feeling nervous going into my 1-on-1 with him to talk about it. "I'd like to spend a bunch of your money" isn't an easy ask.

But it's not over!

As a seller, once the sale is made, you may or may not stay involved, but for the most part, you move on with your life.

As the buyer, the purchase is something you'll have to live with - whether it succeeds or fails.

And guess what? Now that we're all remote, buying is even harder than ever! As a buyer, there's no informal chats to gain consensus, understand processes, and align around issues. Everything is a formal meeting.

Your opportunity...

Buyers still have to buy.

You have an opportunity to differentiate in the way that you sell. To stand out from the crowd.

As you may recall from my article on "Remote Buyer Bias", where our brains subconsciously bias decisions based on the path to the desired outcome, optimizing the path provides an opportunity.

With this fresh perspective in mind, think like a doctor practicing "clinical empathy". Imagine what it's like to be sitting in your buyer's chair, in this environment, trying to address an issue or make an investment with a future payoff.

Where can you find ways to remove effort from the buying journey?

Positioning: Do we present our solutions are perfect, leaving the buyer to do more homework trying to figure out where the risk or downside may be? Provide both the pros AND THE CONS of a potential purchase with you.

Process: Do we add steps to the process by requiring a "discovery" or "qualification" call before we provide the buyer with really anything they need in their journey - like a demo or pricing? Stop it! The faster the brain is able to predict, the more comfortable it becomes with the journey, and the more likely a decision gets made. And for you, the faster you qualify out an opportunity you're destined to lose anyway, the more efficient you become with your time.

Negotiations: Do you negotiate pricing like you're in a Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament, hiding your tells? Play your cards face up instead. Lay out your pricing levers for the client, and let them negotiate their own deal.

Contracts: Do we have 1-way terms in our "auto-renewal" language requiring a notification period, auto-price increases, or anything that really only serves ourselves? Remove 1-way language from contracts. Don't be afraid to add personality to the legal process. Lawyers are people, too. When their job is hard, the buyers job becomes harder, too.

That's only the beginning. Think like a buyer. Where is the friction?

The bumpier the road, the slower the drive.

Pave the road - you'll reap the rewards of faster sales cycles, higher win rates, and customers who stay, buy more and tell their friends.

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