Many sellers are experiencing stalled sales cycles in which customer's are delaying decisions by days, weeks and in some cases even months. I'm talking about deals that are sitting on the goal line. Deals in which the customer has reviewed the proposal or completed the candidate interview process and has even given the "verbal yes" to move forward but for whatever reason, they just can't seem to sign the contract and consummate the deal. These are deals sellers were counting on closing. These are deals that were forecasted to close last month. But now they're stalled with no indication of what is going to happen next and no timeline for a final decision. What is one to do?
In the current economic climate, buyers are applying an extra layer of scrutiny to each and every buying decision. In part one of this two part blog series (Part 2 will be published Thursday), Understanding How, Why Your Customers Buy, Key To Unlocking Your Stalled Deals, I'm going to share with you how customers think including how and why they buy. We're going to examine why understanding how and why your customers buy is one of the keys to unlocking your stalled deals. This analysis will give you the knowledge and insight you need in order to uncover buyer concerns and reinvigorate and jump start your deals. In part two, I will share ideas for how to sell value beyond the candidate interview and the "verbal yes" that will aid in closing your deals.
Understanding How and Why Your Customers Buy
The role of a corporate business manager, whether it be the CIO or Manager of Application Development who leads a team is to leverage all available resources to pursue and achieve their goals and objectives. What all managers want is to accomplish all they can with the resources they have available. This is how they remain employed, receive a promotion, bonus, stock options and other incentives. To that end, what all managers want are results. Examples of the types of business results hiring managers want include:
- Increase in revenue
- Reduce costs
- Improved asset utilization (improved efficiency)
- Accelerated time to market
- Reduced customer churn
- Reduction in bugs/defects
- Accelerated product releases
- 99.9% system up time
What your customers, hiring managers, ultimately value, and what you’re in the business of selling is business results. Your customers hire you and your staffing firm for the business results and outcomes you can enable them to achieve. But if you don't know this and don't understand this then you will never know how to sell value and reinvigorate your stalled deals.
Before your customer can buy from you there are at least four things that they have to take into consideration and four decisions that they have to make. In small companies it could be one person such as the president or COO who makes all of these decisions but in larger organizations its typically multiple people or even a committee that makes each decision (this is what makes selling to large companies complex). The four decisions that every customer must make include the following: (as you read through each, consider your stalled deals)
1.) Commitment: Do We Have to Buy Now?
The decision of “do we have to buy now” is by far the most important decision your customer must make because if they can’t arrive at this decision none of the other three matter. If you can think of a reason why your customer might not buy now then you can bet your customer has as well. What questions must you and your customer ask in order to answer the question of “do we need to buy something now?”
Gap, Disparity Pain: What is the problem, goal, objective, need, or pain the customer is trying to address?
Compelling Event: Why does the customer need to take action on this right now? What would happened if they did nothing and things remained the same?
Urgency: Is there a deadline in which action must be take action? Is there a deadline in which the customer must start seeing new, improved results?
Risk: What is the downside of making this purchase? What could go wrong?
Prioritization: Of all of the initiatives the customer needs to act on, which are the most important and top priority right now?
2.) Course of Action: What Should We Buy? Once your customer determines that they do in fact have to buy, the next logical decision they have to make is, what should we buy? Your customers know that there is always more than one way to solve a problem or achieve a goal. For example, as an alternative to hiring a consultant from your staffing firm your customers could also outsource their IT function(s), shuffle internal staff, hire a full-time employee, bring in a system integrator or bench based consulting firm to manage the entire project or maybe they can implement software to perform the tasks that your IT consultant would otherwise perform. Questions To Ask: What other factors will your customer have to consider when deciding on what should we buy? (answers include:)
Results: Will this solution (staffing) deliver our desired results?
Feasibility: Are we confident this solution (candidate) will work for us?
Proven: Has this been done before successfully? Has this consultant previously solved this problem before and delivered our desired results?
Risk: What are the odds of success or failure if we go this route?
ROI: How quickly can we start to see results from taking this course of action?
Prioritization: Of all the possible solutions to choose from, is this one the best for us?
3.) Resources: Do We Have The Resources To Buy? Before any customer can buy something they must have or be able to get the money to buy it. Smart prospects including IT hiring managers also have to assess whether or not they have the manpower and time to implement and utilize whatever it is they're buying. For hiring managers this equates to them having both time and manpower for onboarding, training, and getting a consultant productive. Hiring a new consultant is a lot of work for a hiring manager. Screening and interviewing candidates is the easy part, the hard part that consumes most of their time is training and supervising them. Questions To Ask: What must the customer consider when making the resource decision? (answers include):
Budget: Have we planned for and budgeted for this investment?
Funding Availability: Do we actually have the money on hand or financing in place to make this investment?
ROI: Does this investment meet our minimum requirements for ROI?
Manpower: Do we have the people and bandwidth to make this project and consultant successful?
Management Oversight: Is there a person or committee who has agreed to take ownership of and responsibility for the success of this project or consultant?
Prioritization: Of all the places we could invest our resources right now, is this the best place?
4.) Source: Who Should We Buy From? If your customer determines they need to buy something now, they know what they need to buy and they have the resources to buy it, they still need a source to buy it from.
These four decisions are all interrelated like a jigsaw puzzle and to get a complete picture of the overall buying process you have to understand each. Each of these decisions are interdependent on one another. If a customer determines they have to buy now to solve a business problem but the company doesn’t have the resources to buy then they can’t possibly buy now. Similarly, if the customer has the resources to buy and a source to buy from but no urgency to buy now or no consequences if they don’t buy now then they’ll most likely put the purchase off a little longer. All four of these decisions must be made in favor of buying before a customer is ready to buy.
So What is My Point?
A lot of small decisions have to be made before your customer can make the big decision. Not only that, they have many options to consider and risks to weigh. But most salespeople don't take this into consideration. In fact, most salespeople are oblivious to this. Most salespeople have the natural intuition to continue calling and emailing the customer in hopes of badgering them into a decision. That is NOT the right approach. In fact, this is exactly the reason why salespeople need to be following a buyer aligned sales process.
The first step to getting traction with a stalled deal is simply understanding WHY the deal has stalled in the first place. Understanding WHY the deal has stalled will give you the insight you need to sell value in order to jump-start the deal and eventually close the deal (all of which I will cover in part 2).
But for now, the question becomes, to what degree have you discussed with your customer each of these four decisions that they must make?
For example, lets review Commitment: Do We Have to Buy Something Now?
- What has your customer shared with you about their gap, disparity or pain point they need resolved? Is this still a priority (priorities have drastically changed for most companies over the past few weeks)
- Has your customer told you what the negative financial impact of NOT hiring your consultant would be on their team, department, project or company?
- Have you shared with your customer how your solution (candidate) has solved this gap, disparity or pain point previously?
- Did your customer tell you they are confident in your candidates ability to deliver the solution?
- Have you put your customer in contact with your candidate's references who can share with your customer how your candidate has solved this same pain point?
- What has your customer shared with you regarding the risks associated with making this investment (hiring your consultant)?
- Your customer is thinking "what could wrong?" Have you uncovered "what could go wrong" and addressed those with your customer?
As you assess your stalled deals and uncover what you know and what you don't know about how and why your customers buy, you will identify the blind spots or weaknesses in your opportunity and what questions you need to go back and ask of your customer. This insight will enable you to reposition your candidate as the ideal and least risky solution for your client.
Click on the links to learn more about the importance of selling the way your buyers buy and how to build a buyer aligned sales process.