Get it right: Shift the sales and marketing focus to the buy side

Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities. In sales and marketing, we’ve focused on the sell side. In October, Pat Spenner of CEB wrote an article in Forbes titled:You’re Doing it Wrong: Demand Generation. This is the first time I’m aware of that a mainstream publication has noticed that the problem – applicable to both sales and marketing – is on the consensus management, or ‘buy-in’ side. I’m delighted I’m no longer the lone voice discussing or resolving the problem.

Since the inception of sales and marketing we’ve believed that some sort of information utilization – getting the right information at the right time to the right people, discovering a need or a probable demographic, managing objections, getting appointments, having great ads and sites – will lead to a sale. But we’re only closing the low-hanging fruit. – approximately 7% from first call (although some like to fudge a bit and count from connections and proclaim they close 20%). The rest clearly need us. Why aren’t they buying?




Unfortunately, 90% of the buying decision path – a confusing journey fraught with unresolved people, management, and strategic obstacles – occurs outside our purview, withouthelp from us, and not based on our solution. Indeed, buying a solution – the final 10% of the decision path – isn’t relevant at all unless buyers get the requisite consensus and personal buy-in from all whose jobs will be involved with any resultant change.


Spenner calls the buyer’s consensus issues ‘dysfunction’. I disagree. Because a buying decision is a systems change issue, not a solution choice issue, buyers must first address their rules, roles, people, money, and management issues before they can buy. And, as sellers and marketers who exist outside the system, it may seem like dysfunction to us because we recognize a need/solutions match they seem to be ignoring.


But they may not be ignoring their needs or our solution; they just might be dealing with the steps they must take to enable efficient change (There are actually 13 steps buyers must take, from idea to purchase, and our solution orientation enters at step 10.). Remember we learned as kids that a system is homeostatic, and will resist if something from the outside attempts to get in or change it? It’s impossible to take one piece out and put something else in without garnering resistance. So we’re pushing information and solutions at the wrong time and in the wrong place and probably creating the resistance we’re getting.


Imagine announcing to your spouse you just bought a great house on the way home and you want the family to move next week. Or a CEO who decides on her own to buy new software for her 1000 person company and announces to the tech folks, users, marketing folks, and accounting group that there will be an implementation next week. It’s not about the house, the software or the need; there is no buy-in, no consensus, no reorganization, no change management.


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