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"Remote" Buyer Bias: The journey is as important than the reward.

· Transparency,behavioral science,decision science

Decisions are subconsciously biased by the cost & effort to act.

That, my friends, is really important to understand, especially today.

I read a lot of research. It’s my thing. I’d rather read the research itself than read a book, because I enjoy coming to my own conclusions. (then, ironically, I write them in a book for you...trying to save you the time)

I’ve recently been studying the concept of “bias”, and found a collection of studies on a bias nobody seems to talk about, but in today’s environment, it should be a massive area of focus.

When making a decision, our brains subconsciously stack the deck towards the easier path.

For obvious reasons, the buying journey has suddenly become infinitely harder. But this bias is a not-so-obvious reason, which may be as important to address as the obvious reasons.

If you thought “consensus” selling was hard before, imagine how hard consensus buying has become. For a buyer to gain consensus, it’s no longer a matter of walking down the hallway to have an informal discussion, or running into someone in the kitchen area. Everyone is remote. Every discussion is a process to arrange.

On top of that, we make evaluating our solutions hard. We add steps. We drive buyers to do more homework. We pass the evaluation from sales development to account executives to solution consultants to managers & leaders to lawyers to implementation consultants to client success representatives, often with dirty handoffs.

The journey is as (or more) important than the reward.

Remember back in high school, when you were assigned to do a book report? If given the option between a collection of books, you likely gravitated towards the one that would be the easiest path to a good grade, right? The one that has been turned into a movie? The one that has Cliffs Notes written? The shortest book to read?

Given the circumstances, our buyer’s brains are already biased towards inaction! It makes the status quo considerably harder to dislodge.

But it’s deeper than that. It’s subconscious!

In one study conducted by the College of London, individuals were asked to look at a screen of dots / bubbles. They used a joystick to indicate the direction the dots were moving...either left or right. Partially through the study, the joystick was calibrated to make pushing it to the left moderately more difficult. Soon, participants started indicating the dots were moving to the right, even though they were moving to the left.

👉 Read that again! It blew my mind. Our brains trick us into choosing the path of least resistance.

This bias combined with our current working environment tells us that it has never been more important to remove friction from the journey you take buyers on to engage, learn, evaluate, decide, negotiate, sign and implement.



Here are three places to start:

1) Embrace radical transparency:

Why do we read reviews? Why, when reading reviews, do 82% of us seek out the negative reviews first?

As human beings, we’re wired to try to predict what our experience is going to be like when making a purchase.

And according to a 2017 study by Gartner, 61% of the buyer’s time during a potential purchase of substance is spent doing research beyond the claims of you, your competitors or their internal buying teams. It’s why sales cycles take so long, why prospects go silent, and why the status quo so often wins. Buyers only get “perfect speak” from salespeople, and are driven to do homework to predict their experience and get at the truth.

Want to remove friction from the buying journey? Be the source. Provide both the pros AND THE CONS of a potential purchase with you. When the buyer does do their homework and find it matches what you’ve shared, they no longer feel the need to do more homework.

By leading with transparency and being the “truth”, you speed sales cycles and increase win rates by removing friction from the journey.

2) Remove steps from the buying journey:

When a prospect fills out a form on your website asking to be contacted, or agrees to a first meeting, their level of interest is high. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t bother. So let’s just say it’s an “8”.

In typical selling environments, there is a sales (SDR, SDS, MDR, etc.) reach out to “qualify” the lead. In between when the lead form was filled out and this first call, other things have happened for the prospect. Other priorities. Potentially they’ve now talked to other options. So they’re now at about a “6”.

At the end of the “qualification”, where the prospect hasn’t learned anything new, they’re now down to a “5”.

Another call is scheduled - another step - with an “Account Executive”. Now they’re down to a “3”.

Then, the “Account Executive” gets on, asks the same questions again, then does a demo or presentation that is generic, not utilizing anything learned during discovery.

Does that sound familiar?

Now is the time to combine steps! If you separate out qualification from presentation / demo, stop it.

Be a giver. If the customer needs information to make an informed, confident prediction of what they're experience might be with your products or services, it's your job to give them all of that information as quickly as possible.

Look for ways to combine, shorten or remove steps from the process immediately. Remember, it's your job to sherpa the buyer through the journey. But, as mentioned above, the juice must clearly be worth the squeeze - because as the squeeze gets harder, the juice is no longer as sweet to the subconscious buying brain.

3) Remove 1-way terms from your contracts:

Have you ever clicked "accept" on one of these before without reading it?

My guess is - yes. Probably all the time. We see "accept the terms" on all sorts of things we interact with online. And even though it says, "be sure to carefully read and understand all of the rights and restrictions..." in bold, all capital letters, we typically don't.

We accept them, because we trust that it's not there to screw us. All it takes is one time for a term to be slid into a click-through agreement for organizations to lose the trust required from their buyers to do business with them, and suddenly see a massive drop in sales.

In complex sales, we have mutually binding contracts which are used as evidence of our agreement, with terms that govern the relationship.

All too often, the contract's process slows sales processes down dramatically at the goal line. It's corporate lawyers' responsibility to protect their organizations, and because so many contracts have 1-way terms, these departments know to read every single word carefully.

Lawyers are people, too. There's an opportunity to be your customers' legal department's favorite!

A way to start? Remove terms that are really only there to benefit you, the vendor. Or, at the very least, make them clearly mutual.

For example, language like auto-renewal with required notification period: In SaaS (software-as-a-service) contracts, vendors often include language that automatically renews the contract at the end of the term unless the customer gives notification in advance. Sometimes as much as 90-days of notice. This is a term that really only benefits the vendor - and seeing that (a) the client that signs the agreement won't likely remember it's even in there at renewal time or (b) the client that signs the agreement is not the person still in the role at renewal time, it's simply unfair to the client. Take it out, or make it mutual by stating that the "notification requirement" is only valid if you remind the client even further in advance.

Similar terms like those stating that the subscription price will increase each year, or language that requires the client to allow the vendor to use their name for marketing purposes or in case studies add friction to the process. Earn those benefits...don't try to slide them into contracts. Especially now.

Ironically, I may be biased myself by how important I believe this to be - but this bias matters, and can be overcome. Now is the time to understand the steps you put buyers through on their way to a confident, predictable decision to either buy or not buy from you. The journey you put buyers through could be a differentiation...and must be in an environment where buying is harder than it's been in the past 10+ years.

Thank you, be safe, and reach out any time!

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