For the last few weeks, we have been writing about the importance of sellers “getting in early” in the customer’s buying journey. Sellers have to make sure that they are one of few contenders while the customer performs internal due diligence to see if the seller can credibly address the company’s needs.
This all speaks to having quality Commercial Insight that opens up the potential customer’s mind, and helps them see the seller’s company as uniquely positioned to solve their business problem. We think of this as the first, and perhaps most important, part of any sale.
Step two in the sales process
There is also a second part to any sale, where the seller’s organization will be compared against other similar suppliers or alternatives, either formally or informally. The buyer’s perspective now shifts from considering what they could accomplish to all the other things that need to happen to make the purchase a reality.
Will the new purchase play well with everything else that’s happening in the business? Is the supplier financially solvent? Are they SOC2 compliant? As different buying group members add to this list of requirements, dreams become checklists that try to capture the interests of the many weighing in on the purchase (it’s a median of at least 6 people, and possibly much larger).
As the data below shows, purchases fast become formal – in our study of 667 B2B buyers, it was only 16% of purchases that were not subject to an RFP at some point in the journey:
At this point, not surprisingly, control of the purchase shifts to procurement, who needs to make sure that other stakeholder interests are given full consideration. There will be many additional considerations and stakeholder interests that your economic buyer is unlikely to have fully considered: to them this feels like the internal bureaucracy.
These are all the things that make purchasing seem difficult to sellers and to customers. It’s also why many purchases appear to go backward from the supplier’s perspective, especially if you are part of the 14% who find themselves responding to an RFP where the buyer mostly wants to figure out what might be still negotiable.
Simplifying the sales process to sign the deal
From a seller’s perspective, this is where they have to work to make things easy for the buyer. Sellers can’t always address many of the internal reasons why a purchase might go off the rails, but they can at least make sure that their side of the transaction is seamless.
Removing friction by shortening this second part of the sale is also where organizations can make significant productivity gains. Not only do buyers appreciate a shorter transaction but sellers end up with time to generate interest elsewhere.
Beyond this, however, sellers also have to make sure that all the most important stakeholder issues have been fully considered. If they don’t, they might end up with ‘no-deal’ which is what we discussed last week…