A buyer’s perspective

I recently attended a one-day seminar by Bob Urichuck that was focused on buyer-centric selling. I am not a salesman but I am a buyer with 53 years experience. In those 53 years I have made some observations that I would like to share with you.

Before I get started I would like to add that on the way to work today I mentioned one of these observation to my wife. She pointed that my observation needed a bit of refinement. I told her that I had observed that we tended to buy in different ways. I knew I would be writing this today and wanted her opinion.

In short, she likes to shop and I like to buy. I tend to research a purchase in advance so that I know everything that I need to know before I leave the house. She on the other hand, will leave the house with an idea and an open mind. I suggested to her that her process takes quite a bit longer than mine. She agreed but added a very import fact. When she finally does make a buying decision, she tends to spend quite a bit more than I do. I thought about that for a few moments and realized that she was right. How you use that information is up to you.

I have three adult children and they noticed early on that Dad and Mom shop in different ways. The boys tend to like to shop with dad and my daughter tends to like to shop with mom. That generalization works at the highest level, but when you dig down a bit, it really depends on what they are shopping for. If its time to buy a new computer, my daughter would put the buying decision in my hands and expect the process to be quick and painless. If the guys are shopping for a new computer we all tend to do the research up front and leave the house ready to buy.

Bob had many interesting observations with respect to how buyer’s want to be sold and he definitely understands me. That said there was at least one thing that I either didn’t understand or disagree with. I get to that a bit later.

I generally go out to buy and not to shop, so it is really important that the sales person listens. The last thing I want is the complete sales pitch. Bob points out that sales people should never give away all the features/benefits as part of the initial pitch, but rather listen to and probe for the requirements. As a buyer, that would be a refreshing change. He has a really good story to drive that point home, but I will leave that for him to tell.

Bob suggests that a sales person should listen and probe for requirements or problems that the customer is trying to solve. In my case I tend to arrive with my decision made so I am looking for confirmation that I did my research correctly. If the sales person points out one or two key things to make me feel more confident about my decision that would be a bonus. The trick of course, is to do it in a way that doesn’t cause me to think I’ve been manipulated. Being manipulated into a purchase decision causes me to feel like I have been taken advantage of and that generally doesn’t end well.

If you want to sell to this buyer you have to listen. If the purchase is something small then I will buy the first item that meets the need and is within my pre-established price range. If the item is a bigger ticket item like a car, then I will buy from the seller that has the best product at the best price. It is very rare that two products will meet my criteria. I have done my research and I already know which product is the best, so I tend to go to that dealership first in order to save time. I will quickly verify my data by visiting a couple of competitors.

Bob mentioned that a seller wants to be the last person the buyer talks to. I tend to enter a dealership with that in mind and react poorly to the full court press. I will tell the sales person that they are the last on the list and see how they react. If they maintain their cool and don’t go beyond my requirements, then they remain in the game. If they go all out and tell me dozens of things I don’t want to know, they’re out.

Bob points out that the time to do the feature dump is after I sign on the dotted line. I have never had a sales person take that approach. Now that Bob has pointed it out to me, I will look for it. I do expect the sales person to pay attention to the amount of time I have available, but they would be wise to ask for a time when I can listen. I think I would really enjoy being told about all the extra things I just got for my hard earned cash.

I alluded earlier to one thing that Bob said that I didn’t agree with. Bob was suggesting that sales people determine if a buyer is ready to buy and not waste time selling to them until they are. I’m not sure how a sales person could do that and not leave me with the impression that they were brushing me off.

Let me tell you a short personal story.

My wife and I review all the data on the latest cars every time we go shopping for a new vehicle. We are both high tech professionals with reasonable salaries so there is nothing really out of our reach with respect to any particular car model. That said the first time we went to a Toyota dealership to buy a Celica the sales person decided in advance that we couldn’t afford the car and would not sell us one. The second more recent time we went to buy a Toyota fifteen years later, the sales person asked us if we were ready to buy tonight and was visibly put off when we said no. As a result we have never and probably will never buy a Toyota.

I should caution readers that every sales opportunity is completely unique. Expect to adjust and adapt your approach each and every time. I tend to buy in my jeans and t-shirt and shave later in the day on Saturdays after I go for a run. You certainly cannot judge this book by his cover. My wife tends to look great all the time so she might be an easier read.
In closing I would like to say I was really impressed with Bob’s approach to selling and the sales community would be wise to listen to them if they want to sell to me.

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