“I can’t believe she didn’t buy it. She must be nuts to turn down this deal. I gave her everything she asked for plus a discounted rate. This just doesn’t make sense.”
Why does this happen in sales? You put together a killer deal and fully expect it will close because, you feel certain, it is exactly what the buyer needs. But then, inexplicably, the buyer says “no.” You can’t fathom why the answer is no. It doesn’t add up.
So why does this happen? What is it that you are not seeing, comprehending or handling? How can you reduce the number of times you get unpleasantly surprised like this?
Start by taking responsibility for the outcome. Making a leap like “she must be nuts” doesn’t give you anything to work with if you are to turn the sale or learn for the next time. Conducting a post-mortem examination of the interaction and sales attempt will give you much more to work with and help you to improve subsequent outcomes with this buyer and others, too.
Next, consider that there is not a simple right/wrong choice in whether or not to buy what you are selling. To you, of course, the only right choice is the one you have offered. But the buyer sees this very differently. Your choice is just one of many that are available. As a buyer, you’ve got numerous choices like: buy from seller A, buy from seller B (+ C, D… X, Y, Z…), don’t buy at all, don’t buy now, buy a different quantity, buy something new and different, and so on.
Since you can’t oversimplify the buyer’s decision into a right or wrong choice, you have to deal with the buyer’s opinion. Doing so requires an understanding of basic argumentation theory. We’ll talk more about that in next week’s Expedition blog post. As a starting point, just consider the three reasons that people may have an opinion that is different from yours.
- The other person has had different experiences.
- The other person has had experiences like yours but drew different conclusions from them.
- The other person accepts a different source of authority or a different value as a basis for forming an opinion.
What this means to you is that you may have built your case on a house of cards. What seemed logical and solid to you may not seem that way to the other party. Here’s an example:
Some people believe strongly in creation. Others believe in evolution. Neither side has a full set of facts on which to base their case. Two different people with two different opinions on this matter might have drawn the conclusions they did based on their own experiences growing up, how they were educated, and what belief system they have chosen. One who values scientific teachings and one who values Biblical teachings would disagree in this matter.
Neither will be swayed by the other’s arguments. If the evolutionist lays out a solid case using science and draws conclusions based on their own experience, it will not resonate with the creationist. And vice versa, too.
What persuades us to act or to consider another point of view is an appeal to our own senses, a touch point that we can identify with, or a foundation grounded in what we already believe. If you are selling without consideration for the opinions of your buyers, then you may be missing the mark even when you craft what seems (to you) like a very compelling case.
Here are some ways this happens in selling:
- A seller cites research from a source that the buyer doesn’t have confidence in. Oftentimes, testimonials from competitors can backfire – if the buyer you’re talking to doesn’t think highly of the competitor, they may dismiss the testimonial altogether.
- A seller states as fact a belief that the buyer doesn’t ascribe to. Even widely held beliefs are not facts. When we start presenting non-factual information as gospel truth, we lose credibility without ever understanding why.
- A seller positions a product, service or outcome as a solution to a problem. But the buyer doesn’t see it that way because he or she has had past experiences that didn’t work out quite the way the seller is putting it together.
To avoid these situations, sellers should remain objective and check their own assumptions. During needs assessment, find out what the buyer values and what relevant experiences they’ve had in the past. Ask questions to gauge the buyer’s initial reaction to any alternate solutions you may propose. Gather information that will give you insight about the buyer’s opinions and beliefs.
By putting yourself in the buyer’s shoes, you will avoid the “what just happened?” feeling of hearing “no” and having no idea why the buyer did not buy.