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3 Unavoidable Barriers to Getting Commitments in the Complex B2B Sale

3 Unavoidable Barriers to Getting Commitments in the Complex B2B Sale Blog Feature

April 25th, 2017 min read

“I can’t close business or get commitment. I don’t know how to do that without sounding too aggressive or ‘pushy’.”

“I can’t ask for commitment from people without sounding 'salesy.' I’m not any good at sales.”

“I’m pretty good with customers with the ‘tell’ but I’m not very good at the ‘sell’ (commitment & closing) part.”  

Even though many salespeople don’t close or ask for commitment very effectively, I rarely ever hear comments like these from them. (They’ll never admit to this serious performance problem.)But I do hear it all the time from marketers and often from people involved in digital marketing agencies, given the job of selling new business to new customers.

So, what’s the big deal about commitment and closing that has so many marketers and other reputable business people trembling in fear at the very thought of being seen as a (gulp)...salesperson?

The most important objective of this post is to take a closer look at the realities of closing and commitment in sales and selling and, in so doing, relieve some of the anxieties that arise as a result of not knowing what to expect.

Knowledge and understanding are power.

All of this material applies to the universe of selling in the Business-to-Business (B2B) marketplace; specifically the arena of The Complex Sale which is characterized by:

  • complex, problem/solution issues
  • longer selling cycles
  • multiple decision makers
  • a consultative sales approach

So, let’s take a look here at three important market factors, or realities, that impact any commitment or closing strategy, and understand how anyone can get past their concerns and increase the amount of business they close!

Barrier #1: Complex Issues & Problems

The Problem:  Complex business problems & issues that require a consultative approach

B2B buyers rarely buy products on impulse or because they’re sexy.

They buy because they see it as a solution or fix to business problems and issues that are costing them money or opportunities. Products or services that offer greater revenue generation or reduced operating costs (“increased revenue or reduced costs”) are the frameworks that everything else salespeople say must relate to. Aligning your business with these goals and pain points is what is going to grab your prospect’s attention and get them on your page.

The Solution: Ask questions and engage in dialogue to understand those problems and your specific solutions in that regard.

All complex selling is grounded in “legitimacy.” It can only take place when there are genuine customer problems, issues, and needs. Other buying decisions that can be heavily influenced by emotion, wishes, hopes, and aspirations of the seller are a weak foundation for selling at strategic or high levels of people and organizations.

Other buying decisions that can be heavily influenced by the emotion, wishes, hopes, and aspirations of the seller are a weak foundation for selling at strategic or high levels of people and organizations.

Knowledge-based consultative selling is the systematic method or process used by leading companies to communicate with buyers in this “legitimate” selling mode. It is based on the reality that buyers must be questioned to be understood – to know what has produced or influenced their pain or need.

It is also known by many other names: solution selling, collaborative selling, strategic selling, and integrity selling, to name a few. Getting buyer commitments are totally dependent on their perceived value of your solution in the context of this reality.

Suggested Commitment Strategy & Language: Communicate your solutions clearly and succinctly to get their buy-in, affirmation, or “commitment” to understanding and implementing those solutions in their business.

Consider asking:

“In the light of the very real issue or problem that you just shared with me… can you see the value that [product/service] would provide in helping you fix that situation?”

“So, is that clear to you?  What do you think about what I just said?”

“How does that sound to you?”  “Does that make sense to you?”

Barrier #2: Buyers are More Savvy and Well-Informed

The Problem:  Very savvy, well-informed buyers who do deep research before contacting suppliers.

Buyers today want to gather and digest as much information as possible through their own internet research before calling any potential supplier or vendor for information about their products.

A respected market research company, Siriusdecisions estimates that today’s buyer is much more knowledgeable and savvy than buyers were 20 years ago.  It indicates that 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before they pick up the phone to call a salesperson for more information.

The Solution:  Engage them in a meaningful way by honoring the research they’ve done and by providing them with even more.  

Help them in whatever way that you can to uncover or find information that will help them in their research. Provide valuable, relevant information you know will attract them. Provide buyers with a more middle of the funnel(MOFU) eBooks or blog articles (your own and others) that will be of substantive value to them in their research.

Since they know so much already, you need to give them unique information that will make you stand out and give you the extra edge over the competition.

Suggested Commitment Strategy & Language:  Contact them quickly and personally by phone or email with a compelling offer to help more.

After they’ve downloaded or requested that content, follow up with additional, relevant resources to help them take the next step..  Likewise when they fill out a form on your website for more information. Set up alerts and get back to them very quickly.   

Reminder: NO SELLING ALLOWED in these calls or contacts.  Make it crystal clear that you are contacting them to help, not to pitch. THESE MESSAGES BUILD RAPPORT & TRUST AND SET THE STAGE FOR COMMITMENTS THAT WILL SURELY FOLLOW IF YOU PROVIDE VALUE.

Sincerity and honesty will triumph when you provide legitimate value.

“First up..., this is not a sales call but a call to help you in any way that I can with your research……”

“I see that you downloaded our eBook.  I wanted to help you find out what you need without being bothered by a sales call.   Here’s my first recommendation to help you find even more of what you need based on what others said after downloading that info….. (Your new recommendation).

(Voice mail message)  *The above dialogue plus…* “Also, give me a call at (XXX-XXX-XXXX) my direct number for anything else that you might need. I promise “No Selling.” I would like first and foremost to help you find what you need, before telling you how great we are. (Smiley)

Barrier #3: Multiple Decision Makers

The Problem:  Multiple decision makers involved in the buying decision.

In a complex B2B sale, there are almost always several different people involved in the decision-making process when evaluating or buying. As a seller, it is important to know that while these people are all involved in the conversation, they usually have varying degrees of influence and make different decisions within the process.

In other words, they are usually different Buyer Personas.

For simplicity sake, there are usually three important buyers (or personas) who are involved in the decision making process:

  1. The economic buyer (owner/CEO) who makes the decision or approves the decision to budget or spend money on the solution.
  1. The manager buyer (VP, manager, director) who makes or approves the decision on the basis of it making functional and financial sense.  
  1. The user buyer is the individual or group who will actually implement or use the product in the buyer’s company.

Sometimes, like in small companies, all three of these roles will be filled by just one person or small to medium sized groups might fill a single role (usually as users at large companies with large groups or departments.)

The Solution:  Understand and effectively manage multiple people involved in the decision making process.

Step 1. Use all of the “give” strategies referred to above with whoever contacts you or whoever gives you access to information.

Step 2.  Build rapport, trust and form a collaboration or alliance with an advocate (a.k.a “coach”) and any important, influential decision maker.

Step 3.  Use that advocacy relationship to understand where everyone involved in the decision making process stands regarding commitments and/or moving forward.

Step 4. Collaborate and preview your strategies, thoughts, or proposals with your advocate. Ask for ‘buy-in’ or suggestions.

Step 5. Alter or improve your recommendations/proposals based on their inputs.

Step 6. Always get important “temperatures” or buying commitments one on one. Never in groups.

Suggested Commitment Strategy & Language:  Form advocacy or a “coaching” relationship with an important decision maker.  The higher up, the better. Ideal is an owner/manager in a small or medium sized company. Ask them:

“What do you think? Are you good to go with these thoughts?”

“Help me out if you would. Based on our discussions and your input, I’d like to run our proposal thoughts past you to get your feedback and your thoughts. I want to make sure that we are all on the same page and that you think that we’re on the right track with what we’re suggesting.”

“In your opinion, is everyone involved ready to move forward?  Or are you getting (or anticipating) pushback from anyone on our proposal?”

Key Takaways

By understanding these three potential barriers, you will be able to more effectively communicate and make buying commitments much easier to get.

The more you understand about the specifics of the way they manifest for you and your customers, the greater the number of your sales wins you will have.

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