Proof Buyers Aren’t Always Buyers

I was reading the Challenger Sale this morning and came across this excerpt. It’s great support for yesterdays post, Passive Buyer’s Aren’t Buyers at All.

Challengers know many sales opportunities that appear viable on the surface are little more than veiled “verification efforts” by a customer. In other words, they are cases in which the customer has already chosen a vendor to partner with, but feels the need to do some due dillegence — to make sure they’re getting the best deal they can — so they entertain conversations with other vendors even though they have little intention of changing their minds. In cases like this, which our research shows can be nearly 20 percent of all sales opportunities, the customer will assign a more junior member of their organization to field an RFP and meet with other possible vendors. But again, because the customer has no intention of actually buying from these other suppliers, they only allow reps to meet with the junior contact, never permitting access to more senior decision makers.

For most reps this isn’t seen as a problem. In fact, most reps LOVE these opportunies. What’s not to love? After all, the customer called us!

The typical reps response is to continue to spend time with the junior contact in hopes of turning that individual into an advocate, eventually clawing one’s way into the corner office. What we often hear from reps is something along the lines of, “We know money is going to be spent if there is an RFP out there, so it’s stupid for us to not put ourselves into consideration — we at least have a chance!”

But even in this early stage of the sale, Challengers know better. They sniff out these “foils” immediately and press the contact for expanded access in exchange for continued dialogue. When these contacts don’t grant the access Challenger reps know will be critical to completing the sale, their response is to cut the sales effort short and move on to the next opportunity.  It seems so counterintuitive to the average rep–after all, you’ve got a customer that has put an RFP out for a solution you can provide, so you know there’s funding for the purchase. They’ve also agreed to meet with the rep, and customer face time is so hard to get these days. Why would ever want to walk away from a situation like this? But that’s exactly what a Challenger does. Challenger reps know their time is better spent elsewhere.

Just because a customer is showing interest, doesn’t mean they are going to buy. Learning to filter through buyers to get to the real ones is a key element of the best sales people.

Any of you have a good story where you were burned by a passive buyer?