The number one obstacle in every sales cycle is inaction. Often it’s easier for customers to delay or cancel a project than commit to it.
Inaction is a common element in the buying process, and sales people must be aware of it and manage it. Otherwise, sales will be needlessly lost.
More pressing priorities
A customer pain or issue doesn’t mean they’re going to buy.
Often times customers will engage vendors to get educated and understand their options well ahead of a buy cycle. They may be facing an issue, and they’re trying to understand the best route to a resolution.
These sales cycles often start with an executive having a departmental manager “find a solution.” For example, the IT Manager could be tasked to find a new social media monitoring system for the marketing team. Sales people often mistake these inquiries for actual sales opportunities. They’re not. They’re exploratory calls. The departmental manager is doing her research, discovering their options and collecting information for a future purchase.
Sales people have to be trained how to qualify these opportunities, give the prospect sufficient information and move them into a follow up cycle versus a sales cycle.
It’s easier not to act
Customers will exit a buying cycle, because it’s easier to wait.
One of the hardest issues to overcome is when a customer “puts off the project.” The customer has a clear need, and they want what you have. On paper everything should come together nicely, but it doesn’t. The customer hedges, and the deal is postponed.
In risky or complex purchases, customers will go through a natural hedging process. They’ll try to mitigate risk by breaking up the project into phases, working with multiple vendors or delaying the project. Delays are the most common and easiest to justify ways of hedging.
Sales people need training on how to forecast and manage the hedging process, because it’s a natural stage in a buying process. If sales people are not prepared, they’ll try to force their customer’s hand by offering deeper discounts, throwing in more “value-add” options, or by becoming more aggressive. These tactics are not effective. Sales people should help their customers understand the risks, work through contingencies and provide realistic options.
Inaction can be managed
Inaction is a natural buying response. It happens early in the sales cycle, and it rears its head again at the finish line. Great sales people anticipate these resistance points, and help their customers mitigate their risks. Your customers want to make sound purchase decisions, and your sales people can be instrumental in facilitating that process.