• Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Why customers don’t buy

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The real enemy of salespeople today isn’t their archrivals; it’s no decision. That’s according to the several hundred business-to-business salespeopleI conducted recently.

What is it that dissuades a prospective customer from making a purchase even after he has conducted a lengthy evaluation process? The reasons may surprise you.

Regardless of the customer’s confident demeanor, he is experiencing fear, uncertainty and doubt while making a selection. This stress serves as the key factor in determining whether a purchase will be made. When anxious evaluators experience too much stress, it typically results in paralysis: They are too overwhelmed with information and contradictory evidence to make a decision.

It’s the salesperson’s responsibility to anticipate and diffuse the main sources of customer stress during the selection process.

Budgetary stress

Is the money available and justified to be spent? Whether a purchase is made is directly related to the perceived risk versus the anticipated reward. A company’s budgeting process is not only designed to prioritize where money is to be spent but also to remove the fear of spending it.

Corporate-citizenship stress

Before finalizing an order, executives will always ask: Is this purchase in the best interest of the company?

While customers inherently want to do what’s best for their company and be good corporate citizens, the fundamental dynamic of corporate-employee loyalty has changed. Today, business is a “survival of the fittest” world where employment is never guaranteed and loyalty frequently goes unrewarded. In some situations, prospective buyers can feel continual pressure to put their individual needs before the company’s.

Organizational stress

A buyer cares about how colleagues perceive him. Peer pressure is a powerful influencer of group dynamics, and evaluators are constantly worried about how the purchasing decision will reflect on them.

Vendor selection stress

There tends to be a higher no-decision rate when product differentiation is extremely small. Since all the competing products share the same basic features, function and benefits, evaluation team members may take longer to make their decision or postpone it indefinitely.

Informational stres

As you make your pitch, buyers are inevitably asking themselves: Is the information being presented truthfully?

Evaluation committee stress

Whenever a company makes a decision that involves groups of people, self-interests, politics and group dynamics will influence the final decision. Tension, drama and conflict are normal parts of group dynamics because decisions are not typically made unanimously. All of this uncertainty encourages indecision.

Salespeople need to keep in mind a basic fact: Customers are stressed out. It’s no surprise that no decision is the top competitor today.

(Steve W. Martin teaches sales strategy at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. His new book is “Heavy Hitter Sales Linguistics: 101 Advanced Sales Call Strategies for Senior Salespeople.’’)