A recent post on LinkedIn Pulse, a post from someone I admire immensely, brought up a topic that always pains me—how sellers should sell. I’ve seen this particular perspective many times during my long tenure in the meetings industry.
In this particular instance, the author provides the following advice to purveyors of meeting-industry products and services:
- Do your research.
- Tell us something we don’t already know (aka add value)
- Give us something free that builds trust.
- Help, don’t sell.
The advice is legitimate. It’s also one sided. Having been both a buyer and a seller of services, here is what I know:
- Buyers want a “personalized” sales experience, i.e. they would like a seller to know exactly what they need before the conversation (live or digital) even begins.
- Buyers don’t broadcast their needs or their budgets, hence the challenge of obeying the “do your homework” mandate.
- Sellers (like most people) can’t read minds.
- Sellers can’t add value, offer free stuff, or provide help if they don’t know what the intended buyer’s specific problems are.
Yes, sellers of any product—especially event technology—can be aggressive and impatient—despite all of the “share, don’t sell” instruction to the contrary. And, buyers don’t always have the time or the understanding to articulate their needs to sellers that appear to multiply in number on a daily basis. But, there has to be a better way to manage the buyer/seller discovery process.
Trust, the kind that is required for a fruitful exchange (and eventual partnership) between buyers and sellers, is a two-way street. In event technology, it’s quite possible that the sellers actually have more expertise about how to solve a problem than buyers. What they don’t have is an understanding of what a buyer’s particular circumstances or objectives are, insight that is critical because a single technology can solve multiple problems.
This is what I suggest:
- Buyers and sellers must consider themselves as equals—each with a vital piece of the puzzle.
- Buyers must be able to articulate what their problems and objectives are (whether they can be solved using technology or not) in a way that allows the seller to personalize his/her response and help.
- Buyers must be able to provide a budget.
- Sellers must have patience with the buyer.
- Sellers must hold back until they gather enough information to either deliver a proposal or admit up front that they are not the best solution.
- Sellers must take the learning (sales won and lost) to the next sale.
In case this starts to read like a ‘why can’t we just all get along” rant, it’s not. But, for an industry that touts the value of partnerships, we aren’t doing a very good job of developing them. True partners are transparent with each other and work together to deliver an outcome. The best way for buyers to actually save time, find answers, and gain a better understanding of the solutions is not to make demands, but to remove barriers.