Ron Holm Article  

Imagine driving one dark night on a lonely road on the way to an important meeting,

when suddenly you notice that your gas gauge registers empty and there's an equally empty road ahead.

You need fuel in a hurry and don't care what brand it is or how much it costs. You breathe a sigh of relief when you see a "Gas, Next Exit" sign up ahead and carefully coast into the station on your last drop of fuel. You hardly notice the attendant filling the tank as you relax, thinking you are out of trouble. The attendant finishes filling it up, comes around to the window and announces, "I wouldn't drive another mile on that tire. Lucky for you though, we can replace it for you right away."

Suddenly the whole picture changes.

You have just gone from satisfying a need to having something being sold to you. You now think, "Do I really need a tire? Does this attendant truly care about me and my safety or is he just trying to make a quick buck?" Then you wonder, "Even if I need a tire, do I want this particular brand and model?" Then the matter of pricing comes to mind. "Is the price here competitive with similar tires? What if I get home and it falls apart? Where can I go for warranty? Are the attendants well-trained and can they replace the tire? Does the tire really need replacing right now or can I make it back home?" Without attempting to, you have just become a prospect and the attendant has become a salesperson.

Your thought process starts because you're not buying on your own initiative and timing.

Without any preparation, you have to decide before you continue down the road. This is how your prospects feel when you make a sales presentation. The doubts and questions that flashed through your mind with the attendant are the same ones that your prospects ponder. Understanding the buyer's hidden agenda will help you sell because you can anticipate what prospects are considering while deciding.

There are five basic buying decisions that everyone makes when someone tries to sell them something.
The decisions almost always occur in the following precise psychological order:

The salesman.

A prospect's first impression is not of the product or service, but rather of the person trying to make the sale. Prospects are sizing you up, wondering about your integrity. How are you going to serve their needs, if, in fact, you really understand what they are? Prospects want to see you as a helpful, valuable consultant they can trust. They wonder whether you really understand their business and if your product or service really can help them. In your first contact, it will be you who is assessed regarding your knowledge of their needs as much as your own product or service.

The company.

In addition to liking you as a salesperson, the prospect will want assurances that your company is dependable and will back up the sale. You may make a distinction between yourself and your company, but the prospect does not. When you serve your prospect's needs well, that person will view your company in the same light. If you convince prospects that both you and your company have integrity, they will be more open to your presentation.

Your product or service.

Once satisfied about who is representing the product or service, the prospect is then ready to focus on the product or service itself. The prospect is evaluating whether the product meets their needs. If it does not, can they count on you to back out instead of trying to persuade them to buy something that they may regret? If you cannot meet the prospect's needs with an appropriate and affordable solution, you have no right to sell. But if you can meet their needs, you have a professional responsibility to sell. This philosophy builds sales integrity and removes the pressure related to selling because you are not meeting with them to sell; you are meeting them to be of service.

Price.

Prospects buy because of value, not price. Until prospects are convinced that your product or service has value for them and they see benefits from it, no price is right.

Do not push price. Sell value.

If they perceive real value in their investment, they will be less resistant to price and can afford to buy.

When to buy.

When the prospect can answer yes to the first four buying questions, you have almost closed the sale. Now is the time to ask for the order and give an implementation date. Prospects will decide whether your timetable fits with their requirements, and make a decision accordingly. No one wants to spend money before it is necessary. If you can give sound advice on why they should buy now, they want to hear it. Above all, remember that people buy because it is clear to them that the seller truly believes in what his or her company offers. This conviction is more important to buyers than all the facts in the presentation. Your ability to meet the prospects' five buying decisions will give them that conviction. The better you understand the five buying decisions, the better you can design a presentation that serves the prospect's real needs - and gets results.

After all, people buy for their reasons, not yours.

Ron Holm, the owner and president of Business Application Software, a St. Paul, Minn.- based reseller, consults on sales training seminars for the Information Technology Alliance.