Take Charge of Buying; Let Go of Selling

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Garin Hess

Buyer enablement isn’t as much about convincing buyers that they have a need that should be solved as it is about helping to make the buying process easier. The easier you make the process for the buyer, the sooner they will take the actions necessary to move through the purchasing process and the faster they will make a decision. Moreover, if you can make the process easier on them, they are more likely to choose you as a vendor (a nice side benefit, wouldn’t you say?). But how do you make the buying process easier?

Make Buying Easier

Suppose you’re on a journey through the Amazon, and your guide turns to you and says, “Well, here we are at a fork in the river. What do you think we ought to do next?”

Wouldn’t you be thinking to yourself, Well, that’s what I paid you to know?

Most likely, you’d rather the guide say something like this: “Okay, we’re at a fork in the river. If we go left, here’s where it will take us. If we go right, we’ll arrive at this other location. This is what I recommend we do right now, and here is why.”

Effectively, that is what we need to do as sales professionals. Adopting a guide mentality is key to buyer enablement. And to do that, you need to rethink what might be some long-held assumptions.

Let me ask you two questions with seemingly obvious answers about B2B sales:

• Who is in charge of selling?

• Who is in charge of buying?

Most would answer that the B2B sales team is in charge of selling, and the prospect and any accompanying influencers and decision makers (aka the buying group) are in charge of buying.

Will you be surprised if I tell you it is just the opposite?

It’s true: The B2B sales team is in charge of buying, and the buyer is in charge of selling.

“Okay, Mr. Wise Guy,” you say. “Stop talking in circuitous riddles and get to your point.”

Let’s look at selling first.

You Are Not in Charge of Selling—the Buyer Is

In buyer enablement, you are shifting your mindset from selling to enabling the buyer(s). Instead of the focus being on you, the focus is on them. What this means is that, yes, you need to sell to (educate, consult, persuade, etc.) the champion, but after that, you need to empower and equip the champion to sell for you. While you can help, the internal champion is the one who is going to go get the deal done.

So who is doing the selling? You or the buyer? The buyer. That initial buyer—the one who has decided that your solution is best for them and their company—has to sell to the rest of the buying group. It’s unavoidable.

“I know the person I’m dealing with is going to have to pitch internally. In large organizations, the CFO is not going to get on the phone with me,” said Kristin Nagel, senior account manager for ZoomInfo.

In truth, you’ll both be selling to the buying group, but largely the buying group is going to look to the internal change agent, or champion (referred to as the “mobilizer” in The Challenger Sale1), to lead them through the process of making a purchase decision. You are just an enabler.

The Buyer Is Not in Charge of Buying—You Are

How many times has your buyer gone through the purchasing process for the product or solution you are selling? Usually never! As an example, if they are purchasing a customer relations management (CRM) system, how many times have they purchased this system? In their career, this is likely the only time they’ve done it.

Paul Norris, a veteran solution-consulting leader and former vice president at CA Technologies, told me, “People that buy software aren’t good at it. They don’t do it often. Internally, the process is not understood.”2

On the other hand, how many times have you experienced the buying process that goes along with purchasing your product or solution? It’s probably too many to count. Depending on your product and industry and how long you’ve been in your role, perhaps hundreds of times. 

Even if you’re a newbie, you’re still on a team, and collectively as a team, you have deep expertise among you about the buying process and potential pitfalls on the journey. Whatever the case, you’ve been through it many more times than the buyer. And because you have so much more experience in the buying process, who needs to take charge and lead the buyer through the buying process? You do.

Too many sales reps ask the buyer, “What do you think are the next steps?” I’m not saying this is a completely irrelevant question or shouldn’t sometimes be part of the process, but generally speaking, buyers want and need you to exert leadership, to be their guide.

Even if they don’t realize it for themselves, they need you to take the lead. They don’t know what they should be doing. They don’t know the questions to ask, the relevant pros and cons to consider, or the different roles of stakeholders they need to involve to get the deal done and change implemented in their organizations.

As an example, how many times have you encountered a buyer who says something like, “I think we have everyone we need involved,” only to find out later that there are others who need to be a part of the process. 

That’s not their mistake; it’s yours. You should know that the kind of product you’re selling and the kind of company you’re selling to usually requires input and decision-making from specific roles inside this kind of organization. You are in charge of the buying process, not the buyer. Take the lead. Show them the way. They will appreciate it, and you’ll get deals done faster.

Buyer enablement means making buying easier by taking charge of the buying process in order to help your customer sell for you.For the full manual on buyer enablement, check out my book Selling is Hard. Buying is Harder.