Consensus selling is hard.
Consensus buying is hard.
And when everyone is remote, both are infinitely harder.
Then...it actually happened to me.
I’m working with a prospect on a program that includes sales leadership training and a series of negotiation workshops.
The primary buyer is highly organized, thought-out and planned-out. There have been 8 video calls with different leaders in the organization to sell this program, both domestic and international, plus a few less formal phone calls.
I’ve delivered a couple of versions of the proposal, both with short videos walking them through it.
The spend was approved in finance. I delivered the contract...
...which was SIGNED.
Then, the initial workshop meeting notices went out.
Queue the sound of a record going off the track…
There were key stakeholders who had no idea this was going on. When the company’s CRO received the meeting notice, he was on a video call with a couple of other leaders. He asked them, “What’s this about?”, and nobody knew. It snowballed.
This buyer has bought similar services within his company before. However, it’s the Summer of 2020. Things have changed.
So, who’s fault is that?
I’ve dug deep in my own processes to think, “what should I have done differently?” I don’t have an answer.
The buyer, who runs sales enablement in this mid-sized tech organization, feels horrible that I had to get on another video call and essentially "sell" the signed and sold deal. But it's not his fault, either!
I’d argue it’s the world’s fault.
And, as a seller, that’s where "clinical" empathy comes in.
Consensus buying was always hard, but now, in the summer of 2020, it's considerably harder. We must understand that, knowing that buyers likely no longer know their own processes. Informal conversations in the kitchen getting coffee, in the hallways or even the parking lot no longer exist.
Every step in the consensus buying journey is a formal scheduled conversation. The little hallway nuggets of support, process understanding and investment prioritization have disappeared in the remote-working Covid era.
Well, there's no magic wand, other than a clinical understanding of the environment, and an...
....extreme focus on removing friction from the remote buying journey.
What can we do to remove friction from the journey, and aid the buyer in lowering the odds of something going off the rails?
Think about it. A buyer has many priorities. How do they prioritize? How do they decide?
If it's too hard, it slides down the priority list. So, dissect the journey you take a buyer on? What are things you can do to make each step a little easier?
Here are three not-so-obvious things to consider:
- Lead with transparency: In any circumstance, buyers are wired to predict. That's why they check references, explore options, backchannel you, check online review sites, and sometimes simply decide for the status quo. Your buyer will need to understand the pros AND THE CONS of a potential purchase. DO THE HOMEWORK FOR THEM. Lead with the, "Here's what we give up to be great at our core." If you're burying the cons, they will do their homework without you. And, that extra homework is creating friction for the buyer. The more friction, the less likely your deal will get done.
- Leverage video: There is so much conversation around using video for prospecting...but I've found, using short videos that accompany the collateral or proposals you send over has had a huge positive impact. A proposal is a pile of words. A video brings that proposal to life - almost better than a phone conversation to walk through it.
(As a matter of fact, in this instance, my proposal with the accompanying video was one of the things that swayed the client in my direction...just that tactic. "As you can see from the video accompanying the proposal, Todd can bring some modern flair to our sellers, too.")
- Make your contracts easy: Lawyers are people, too. Why do we make contracts so hard? Why do we include terms that only serve us, with no color or explanation. Remove one-way terms, like auto-renews with long notice periods or auto-price increases, and add personality to them. My contract literally starts with, "Thank you for entrusting me to your team", has an "Expectations" section where I include clauses around customization, not being a diva, and representing the client's brand. Contracts are an untapped area to remove friction from the journey, which you can do by making them easier to review, and delivered with a bit of personality.
Ironically, that sales enablement leader is no longer beating himself up - instead, he's using it as a perfect example of how consensus selling & buying just got a lot harder.
And, the call itself went great. The deal is back on the rails, the program is moving forward, and their CRO apologized for the need, but I 1000% understand. This is hard for everyone - buyers & sellers.
2020 is an obvious roller-coaster. You can flatten the ride by being clinically empathetic, focusing on making "consensus buying" easier for the buyer, and at the very least, increase your odds of success.