The buyer is NOT in control. And 5 things you can do to quit worrying about it.

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Have you had that experience of hearing a certain catch-phrase or buzzword just enough times to send you over the edge?

That happened to me recently: “The buyer is in control.” “The buyer is in control.” “The buyer is in control.” It’s even the first line summarizing SiriusDecisions’ recently published 2018 Global Chief Sales Officer Study (despite my lashing of the opening line, the study is worth a read.)

I do understand the point: buyers are armed with more data and information about a brand, product, service, competitor, or category now more than ever before. And with this data, the role of the sales rep must shift to one that is more consultative, more knowledgable, and more helpful.

I agree with all that. But here’s the thing: when hasn’t the buyer been in control? At the end of the day, they go through a process to gather information to make an informed decision. They ultimately own the decision to buy a product or service. Whether it was back in the day or today, if a rep doesn’t build trust by supporting the buyer throughout the buying process, they don’t earn the business. It’s that simple.

Bottom line: Selling is not about control. Here are 5 things to keep top of mind to better support your buyer’s journey, and to help you quit worrying about who’s in control.

1. Be knowledgeable.

Spend the time to get to know the prospect before you engage. It doesn’t require going tremendously deep, especially when it’s the first call and the prospect still needs to be qualified. But a little goes a long way. Learn about the company, their industry, what they sell, and the role of the prospect. Based on that, prepare your questions.

2. Be a solid listener.

You can’t listen when you’re always talking. And you can’t listen if you don’t ask thoughtful, open-ended questions. The job of a salesperson is to learn about a prospect and to determine if there is, in fact, a fit of their product or service with the buyer’s needs. By knowing a thing or two about the prospect and their company, you can assemble key questions to ask to get to the heart of their problem. And getting them talking is the best way to learn. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to use a dialer that helps you understand how much you talk on your prospect calls.

3. Share.

A great way to help the prospect is by sharing other resources that can aid in their buying process. This could be as simple as citing examples of other customers who shared a similar problem, or it may be a reference to a blog post or study that is relevant to the problem at hand. Send stories, articles, and tips, as these often become the ammo the buyer will use when making their case internally to buy your product or service.

4. Make promises you can keep.

Under-promise, over-deliver. This isn’t meant to be sneaky or deceptive. It’s meant to honor your own limits and make good on small promises you make during the buying process. For example, maybe you cited a stat from a blog post and you offer to send them the link. Instead of saying you’ll send it right after you hang up, suggest you will send it by the following morning. Then, actually send it shortly after you hang up. Promise to send a quote by Friday, deliver it before the end of day Thursday. You get the idea.

5. Most importantly, be empathetic.

We’re all human.* We have lives. We have goals and ambitions. We have problems. We have emotions. It is critical as a sales professional to understand that the buyer isn’t just some sentient representation of a persona your team dreamt up. (Ok, yes it is. And that’s the point!) It’s a real person! Be authentic and strive to understand life in their shoes. Personalize your communications Understand what they are experiencing to make a decision that —  to you, is a number towards quota — to them, however, is a decision that impacts the work they do, the work of their colleagues, and ultimately, their livelihood.

(* Yes, AI is showing up more and more in the selling process. But buyers most certainly remain human.)

So, in the end, control is a concept that is passed around simply to underscore the fact that the conditions for buyers continue to evolve. They will continue to become more informed as more content becomes available to them. As for sales teams, they can become smarter and more informed, too. And when they behave in ways that support the buyer’s journey, everyone is standing on a level playing field.

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