The Whale Hunters constantly preach about the The Buyers’ Table and the Whale’s Fears. Understanding fear is a sales breakthrough. We have detailed processes to help your company’s cross-functional team identify all of the reasons that buyers might be afraid of you, and then detailed methods for creating the Fear-Busters that will help to put the fears at rest. The bottom line is this: the whales (big company buyers) will not buy your advantages unless you can alleviate their fears.
Why is that so important to understand? Because in a typical sale, your sellers go in the door touting the advantages of doing business with you; when, in fact, the buyers are only looking for the least risky solution, not the best. The more “new,” the more “comprehensive,” the more “cutting edge” your services or products, the less likely you are to win.
I came across some fascinating, important research that both confirms The Whale Hunters Process™ and elaborates on our understanding of the buyers’ fears. It’s a series of white papers based on extensive research about the BuyerSphere, how business buys from business.
The first paper in that series, Mapping the BuyerSphere, makes it clear that the buying process is irrational. It’s about minimizing risk of two kinds: risk to the organization (which is often mitigated through an RFP or other bid process) and personal risk to each individual buyer (which is much more significant and which you will have to work hard to mitigate). The author writes that personal risk “creates different agendas and different evaluation criteria” among the buyers. Interestingly, he discovered that “often, buyers are willing to pay a premium to eliminate a degree of risk . . . .” Thanks to Holly Buchanan, author of The Soccer Mom Myth and Marketing to Women Online for bringing these studies to my attention.
But even if you do the work of identifying the whale fears, and if you do the work of defining and creating “fear busters,” how do you introduce the fear busters into your sales process? You should do that thoughtfully and deliberately.
First, be sure to define a “fear buster” as something tangible. It’s not just sales conversation. A fear buster is a person, a process, or a technology. It’s a graph or chart or white paper or testimonial or case study or web site or diagram or written example.
Second, understand that your most powerful fear buster is your team of subject matter experts (SMEs), who we call your “boat.” In a complex B2B sale, the loner salesperson is no longer effective. The buyers want to meet their counterparts on your team. They want to know who they would be working with, whether they like these people, whether they respect your team’s intelligence and skill set.
Third, determine where the fear busters should be introduced during your sales process. We call that process progressive discovery/progressive disclosure–what do you need to learn and what do you need to tell at each step in your process. Build the fear busters into the specific steps. Decide which SMEs need to be engaged at each step and what each should bring to the discussion. We recommend a tool called the Power Boat to equip each of your SMEs with powerful questions, points, and tools that they are responsible to present.
If you follow this method, here’s what a step in your sales process map might look like:
Step 5. First team visit to this prospect
What we need to discover:
- Pre-qualify who’s at the table
- Fact-finding mission
- Terms of engagement
What we need to disclose:
- Our SMEs (i.e., put a face on them)
- Our QC and compliance processes – fear driven questions
Who are the buyers at this meeting? CIO, COO, VP Sales/Marketing, VP Quality
What are they most afraid of at this step?
- The CIO is afraid of more work and is afraid of our systems
- The COO is afraid that we have not done a project of this scope before
- The VP of Sales and Marketing is afraid we can’t deliver the sales required
- The VP of Quality is afraid we are not good enough
Who from our team is at this meeting? COO, CIO, CEO, VP Business Development
What fear busters will they present?
- Our CIO will present systems diagram, integration steps
- Our COO will present case studies about scope, a standard ramp-up illustration, and quality assurance standards
- Our CEO will present a published white paper about industry best practices
- Our VP Business Development will present relevant testimonials and a timetable commitment
In this manner, you can integrate your sales process steps with your anticipation of their fears. You can be specific about who is likely to have which fears. You can match up your team with their counterparts so they will learn more about the buyers and their fears.
The buyers are not going to tell you directly that they are afraid of you, but your SMEs will be much better able to interpret and counteract their fears. And only if your team can allay their fears will they be able to buy your advantages.