Just Because You’re Selling . . . Doesn’t Mean They’re Buying

Believe it or not, there was a time when you sent Christmas Cards by the hundreds. Maybe even the thousands, to friends, family, business associates and customers.

You may have felt like Prime Minister, Jim Hacker, who had several stacks of Christmas cards to sign. Some from “Jim”, some from “Jim and Annie”, and some from a number of other possible name combinations depending on the nature of your relationship with the receivers.

The Internet changed that. You could write one Jacquie Lawson online card, that was animated, interactive, and had music, and despite sending it to everyone, make it appear that you only sent it to one person.

This hasn’t stopped stores from trying to sell paper cards, but it has certainly reduced their volume. You’ll notice that the next time you visit someone’s house. Even those who have a lot of friends won’t have myriads of cards plastered all over the walls or tucked into every nook and cranny of the sitting room as they once did.

This is only one example of an industry that hasn’t quite come to grips with the growing fact that just because you’re selling doesn’t mean that they’re buying.


Buyers don’t need sellers

What is it about the Internet that has changed the way that buyers buy? It’s that they don’t necessarily need a seller to explain their options. They can do much of the research themselves before they see a salesman.

They can find out what’s available, where it can be obtained, and the sizes and colours, if that’s appropriate. They can compare models and capabilities. They can discover the pros and cons, read customer complaints, and in many cases even discover the price. And that’s before you get to talk to them.

The pandemic has also made in-office sales calls pretty much a thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future.

It’s worth mentioning, however, that even beforehand, attitudes towards vendors had changed.

In truth, the need for the traditional sales person is over.


A problem for sellers

This presents a huge problem for sellers. If they can’t control the buying process, or if they can’t become involved in it until the customer invites them in, then how can they sell at all?

It’s simply not practical to wait for people to come to you, and as you well know, they won’t unless they believe that your offer has unique value to them.

What does unique value look like?

It could be price, or a previous relationship, or your reputation.

Requests for proposal are offered to potential suppliers who seem like a good match or have a reputation for the kind of thing they want.

Or they may have used you in the past and based on that, have decided to do so again.

Or they believe that nearly all the suppliers are the same, and so they’ve chosen you because you’re cheaper than everyone else.

Without exception, however, companies don’t buy from you just because you have something to sell them.

People are busy. If you know them well, then they might take your call, but if they’re not looking to buy something, then they won’t buy from you no matter how much you can help them. In fact, it’s well known that they may not even accept what you have if you give it to them for free.

This may alarm you.

If they won’t accept what you have to offer for free, then why would they bother to buy it?

And the answer is that they wouldn’t.


So you have to come back to the initial question: Why is it that people don’t buy?

And the answer is that sales people have failed to recognize the importance of what are commonly called objections.



Now these objections are not what you think.

Price has already been mentioned, but if people really wanted what you’re selling, then they’d find the money, or they’d discuss with you ways to pay for it. So price isn’t the problem.

What is much more likely is that the price, in the customer’s mind, is too high for what they think they’re getting. That explains why they won’t buy, but not why they won’t accept it if you simply give it to them.

Think about that. Why would a company not accept your product for free?


Another common misperception is that buyers don’t understand what they’re getting. This is why sales people attempt to explain their offer. But studies have shown that buyers understand what they’re offered perfectly. They can see the value in using it, even when it will save them money. Nevertheless, they still won’t buy from you.

Why is that?

In his book, Why Customers Buy . . . and Why They Don’t, the author Martyn R Lewis discusses seven inhibitors which he calls buyer concerns. Buyer concerns are a different kind of objection.


Buyers are busy

The first concern, according to Lewis, is that buyers are too busy to implement your offer. They may have the money, but not the time. Or they may have the time and the money, but not enough people to fulfill the responsibilities they have and to use your product as well.

All of their resources are in use. There’s no spare capacity.



In the 1940s, the late economist, Herbert Simon, posited the idea that people don’t consider all of the options, evaluate them, and the choose the best one. Instead, they settle for one that works, whether it’s the best choice or not. And that’s why buyers will often get something that won’t meet their needs as well as something that you’re selling. They’re not looking for every bell and whistle that your engineers can think of. They only want what will meet their needs right now.

That means that satisficing is a kind of just-in-time solution.


Don’t need it right now

Buyers may see the value of your offer and be persuaded that it will help their business, but fail to see the need to obtain it now. They may have the time, money, and resources to use it, but feel that there’s no pressing reason to buy it at the moment, and so they don’t. Instead, they use all that’s available to them on the things that matter most now.



Another concern is that they don’t want to change. They don’t want to change the software they use, or the equipment, or their methods, or anything. Regardless of the benefits, they want to keep doing things the way they’ve always done them.

And there’s another side to this, too. They may be willing to change, but struggle to understand how they’ll need to do so. It’s common, for instance, for new technology to be brought into an organization with scant training on how to use it because it’s considered to be too time-consuming.



The fifth concern is to do with alignment. It’s not so much that they want to maintain the status quo as it is that your offer doesn’t match the sort of thing that they do.

For instance, a company might always use the same suppliers; and even when those suppliers make them wait months to obtain something that you sell, they won’t buy from you because that’s not how they do things. Instead, they’ll make their customers wait for a product so that they can buy it from their “trusted” supplier. And so loyalty wins over expediency.


Concern vs motivation

In some cases, the thing that motivates one customer will be the concern of another. You can’t assume that something you do, have, or offer will motivate everyone to buy. You’ll soon discover that it won’t.



You may be told that for some undisclosed reason, “this isn’t a good time”. The interesting thing about this concern is that they’re willing to give you the time to make your pitch; to consider what you’re selling, but don’t feel that this is the right time to buy. You have to wonder why, if it isn’t a good time to buy, why it’s a good time to listen.


Seller mistakes

One of the biggest mistakes that sales people make is to assume that buyers are illogical simply because they won’t buy even if the offer will help them, especially if it makes them more efficient or saves them money.

What’s logical to you isn’t logical to everyone else, and you’ll get yourself into trouble if the buyer gets the impression that you think that they’re illogical.


Any one or some combination of the seven concerns discussed above must be taken into consideration. The more of these concerns you can overcome, the more likely it is that you’ll make your sale.


It’s not a numbers game

Whatever your beliefs in the past, selling isn’t a numbers game. That’s because each buyer is different from all of the others. It’s true that buyers share characteristics, but as you seen from these seven concerns, they’re dissimilar enough as to be unique.

A “numbers game” assumes that everyone is the same: That if you say the same things in the same way with the same offer to enough people, then some percentage of them will buy. That kind of thinking will reduce the odds of you selling anything.

On the other hand, if you approach each prospect as if their needs are unique, then they won’t feel that your offer came from a cookie cutter, or that they’re just one of hundreds of potential customers.

They won’t feel like a number because you won’t treat them as if they are.



Your homework is to evaluate each prospect before you contact them on the basis of the seven concerns just discussed, and to create a plan that’s specific to that person or organization for each one.

Remember. The more concerns you address successfully, the more likely your prospect will buy.


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