Ignore the buyer … a costly sales mistake!

Becky Quick one of the anchors on CNBC recently related a personal story in Fortune that not only rings true, but reminds me – and I suspect many other women – of one of the “deadly sins” of selling. When purchasing a new car she did extensive research, and only needed to test-drive before “plunking down her money”.

But it turned out not to be that easy …

Upon entering the car dealership, she introduced herself and what she was looking for. Then as she asked questions about the car, the sales person directed all of the responses to her husband.

Quick goes on to relate a similar story shared by Anne Mulcahy – former CEO of Xerox. Mulcahy was purchasing a Porsche, took a test ride, and then announced she was ready to buy it. The sales person said, “Don’t you have to talk to someone about that first?” She informed him, “If you don’t start working on the paperwork in the next 10 seconds, I’ll drive 30 minutes to the next Porsche dealer and buy the car there.” Then, as the sales person began completing the paperwork, he asked if she needed someone to co-sign the lease.

Is there a lesson here for all sales people? I’d say a definite yes.

These stories are great reminders that just as you never know who at the table is going to pick up the check at a restaurant and leave the tip, you never know who is going to make the decision when purchasing a car.  And, perhaps more importantly you shouldn’t take for granted who the key players are in a complex B2B sale. It takes time to determine who the key players are and who is just pretending.   And the people playing key roles cannot be developed as internal champions once you’ve figured out who they are if they’ve been ignored early on in the selling process.

This point certainly isn’t “new news”.  It’s something we, in sales, all know. But too often we forget – and when we do we can pay a high price. So think of this as a reminder… Identify everyone involved in the buying process, discover their roles, and then match your message to meeting their needs.  And, along the way don’t make assumptions about who is playing the buyer role.

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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