Working in a complex sale can be tough and buying panels can make them a whole lot tougher. If you are working in a highly complex sale, you will have to get complete agreement from all of the buyers, align all of their interests, negotiate between groups, field more questions than you ever thought possible, and get an enormous headache in the process. All the while, creeping sales goals can add even more stress and pressure to get the ball moving. These extensive sales cycles drag on for weeks, months, or even years (hopefully not that long, but it isn’t unheard of). Instead of beating your head into your desk before the next sales call or screenshare, read this article on how to get into the minds of the buying panel.
Getting into the mind of your buying panel:
Here are some common but powerful social and cognitive biases, and how you can deal with them in your sales approach.
Is psychology working in your favor or against it?
The bandwagon effect:
In the movie 12 Angry Men, Henry Fonda stands in opposition of 11 other jurors. He says the man on trial is innocent of murder while the other 11 state he is clearly guilty. Over the course 96 minutes, Fonda manages to convince every single one of the other jurors to join his side and declare the man on trial "not guilty." He faces extreme opposition from the other jurors, many of them refuse to even listen to him speak. However, using some quick thinking he manages to get a couple of jurors to agree with him. Eventually he hits a tipping point and the rest fall like dominos. So what is the bandwagon effect? The bandwagon effect is a phenomenon where people join a cause or buy into something when they see others doing it. So come on, hop on the bandwagon!
What it means for selling:
When closing a deal with a buying panel, try to think about the tipping point. How many people will you have to get buy in from for the rest to fall in line? As a starting point, focus on completely winning over one person, and your chances of getting the rest will increase. Look for key decision makers. Are there people in the group that have more sway or are more trusted in their opinion? These people might not be the ones with final purchasing power but act as trusted advisors. Try to pinpoint who these people are and focus your attention on converting them to your cause. Others in the buying panel may have distinct needs and interests but are easily swayed once the key leader has made a decision. Just remember to give attention to the rest of the buying panel, don’t overlook or alienate or you’ll be sunk.
Think about the last restaurant you went to with really bad food and service. Did you go home and jump on yelp to look for bad reviews? Did you then show off those bad reviews to other people and say “I told you it was terrible!” Now try to remember how many reviews were actually bad in comparison to good reviews. People focus on and interpret new information so that it confirms their beliefs and preconceptions. To complicate this, people will seek out information that confirms their beliefs.
What it means for selling:
Once you’ve managed to “close” a few members of the buying panel, they will be great and effective promoters. They will seek out information that confirms and validates your product (and their opinion of your product) and spread it to others. Content marketing is a great supplement to this because it fills the internet with positive content for people to find. Just be careful not to be too heavy handed. Once the tone of the content switches to advertisement you will lose credibility.
Fear of change and the endowment effect:
This one is pretty self explanatory but I’d like to dig in a little deeper. Fear of change doesn’t just mean a major career change or move. People value things they own more than things they don’t. In fact, in most cases people will put a higher value on something they own than the exact same thing on a store shelf. The bigger the impact that thing has on someone’s life, the more reluctant those people will be to abandon it and get something new. For example, I, like most people, spend a lot of time on my computer. Suffice it to say, it took a lot for me to make the jump from Windows to Mac.
What it means for selling:
Getting people to invest in something new is tough. Really tough. Some members of the buying panel will be extremely resistant because they believe that their current solution is good enough and that the difficulty of switching will be too much to bear. There are enormous costs associated with changing, especially if it’s over an entire organization. Overcome this by expanding all of the implications of their current problems, and by expanding on the value of your product’s benefits. The value has to outweigh all the concerns the buying panel might have. Once it is clear that your product’s value is enormous, it will crowd out all of those switching costs. The buying panel will be banging at the door to close the deal.
The curse of knowledge, you are just way too smart:
Ever feel frustrated when others aren’t on the exact same wavelength as you? What you are saying makes so much sense! Why doesn’t everyone else get it? It’s so simple, right? People tend to assume that everyone knows all of the same things they do. Jargon is a great example of this. People love to use jargon, but very few people outside the specific industry knows what it means. The curse of knowledge is the source of a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding.
What it means in selling:
Sales people know way too much about the product or service they sell. Why is this a problem? Because if a salesperson spends a lot of time talking about specific features, prospects may not make the same logical connections to how those features solve their problems, or provide benefits. A lot of sales methodologies preach discussing benefits over features and this is exactly the reason why. Keep it simple and make sure everyone is on the same page. If you get blank stares, ask questions to ensure everyone is understanding you loud and clear.
Have you ever heard a grocery store cashier announce "bread is now on sale for the next 20 minutes." Did you go galloping over to buy all the bread you could without looking at the actual price? Anchoring happens when people focus too heavily on one piece of information when making a decision. In the grocery store example, the only piece of information focused on was the word "sale." You may not have ever looked at the price or bought the loaf that actually was on sale. The next time you go to the store, you may even be swayed to buy the same loaf of bread because you remembered that it was on sale last time, even if it's not.
What it means in selling:
Anchoring is a wildcard and can help or hurt your sale. It's important to start your sales pitch by anchoring the prospect on your benefits and value proposition. Each time you have a conversation, you want to remind them quickly of how you can provide value to them and their business. This keeps your message in their mind and eventually they will automatically associate your product with the benefits they are getting. On the flip side, negative things can be anchors too. An example of this could be a competing salesperson giving the buying panel a document saying your software system is buggy. From that point on, every question from the buying panel will relate to the technical aspects of your software. If this happens, you need to re-anchor your prospects to the benefits of your product immediately before you are always associated with a buggy product.
These are just a few social behaviors that can affect your sale and drag out the sales cycle. Buying panels are tough. With limited facetime, it's hard to control the information they receive, handle objections when they are relevant, or even get insight into what they are seeing and thinking. Over the course of the next few weeks we will be publishing more content on how to work with buying panels to help decrease the length of your sales cycle. Tune in next time for a discussion on the types of buyer personas in panels. In the meantime, check out this post on 11 tips on delivering a memorable b2b sales demo.