The idea that people love to buy is one of the biggest myths in sales. The actual buying process is hindered by fears and doubts. It’s up to the salesperson to allay the buyer’s fears.
“People don’t like being sold to, but they like to buy”; so goes one of the oldest myths in sales.
The solution, we are told, is not to sell to people, but to help them buy. While there is no doubt that a salesperson should facilitate a purchase, the myth that people enjoy buying can hinder sales taking place.
In many scenarios, people don’t enjoy buying at all.
Think about the build-up to the purchase of a new car. You begin to take a keen interest in the other cars you see on the road. You may do online research looking at models, colours and specifications. You may buy some car magazines and read reviews. You may have discussions with friends as you raise the prospect of your new purchase. All this can be quite exciting. But it is the possibilities that are interesting at this stage, rather than the purchase. This is not buying.
After you have bought the car, assuming you are happy with your decision, you may enjoy taking it out for a drive. The smell of leather, the fantastic new stereo, the smooth ride and reliable SatNav, may all confirm you made the right choice. However, this is not buying either. This is the exhilaration of having made the right choice and it comes post sale.
Now think about the Saturday morning when you actually go into the car showroom. As the salesperson invites you to sit at their desk to go through the paperwork, you take one last glance at the car that you have decided to buy. The salesperson passes the HP agreement over to you confirming your payments of £500 per month for the next three years. For most people, this is not the most pleasurable experience. Yet, it is this transaction that denotes the moment that you actually buy the car, and with it comes all the fears of whether you have made the right decision.
As buyers, we have real fears about the purchases that we make. Normally, the bigger the purchase, the starker these fears become. Unless sales people understand these fears, they are likely to miss issues that can become a real barrier to the purchase being made.
There are four main fears that we all, as buyers, have:
1. We are worried about paying too much
Nobody wants to feel like they are being ripped off and everyone likes to imagine that they have got a good price. No one wants to discover that they could have bought the same item cheaper somewhere else.
2. We are concerned that we will be disappointed
In short, that the product or service won’t fulfil its promise. All of us have made purchases that didn’t work out. It can be something small, like a book or album that we didn’t enjoy. Or it could be a bigger purchase — like a terrible holiday. So buyers are nervous, and the bigger the purchase, the more nervous they are.
3. We are apprehensive about what others will think
Like it or not, people judge us on the purchasing decisions we make. We invest a certain amount of emotion in a buying decision and we want our friends, family and colleagues to be impressed with the choices that we make. Of course, different expectations and criteria will be made based on the company we keep and the socio-economic group we belong to. But the point is, when we make a purchase, we are taking a certain risk with our reputation. This can often be even starker in business-to-business sales where our professional reputation is on the line.
4. We are habitual creatures
We have to be — otherwise we couldn’t function. Remember, when you first learnt to drive? Most learners will stall the car. This is because there is so much to think about — listening to your instructor, looking in your mirrors, steering, pressing the clutch, shifting gears and watching other road users. Once we have been driving for a while however, we don’t think about everything in detail anymore. This is because many of the driving processes become habitual. Because we are habitual, we often don’t like change. Yet many buying decisions force change upon us. So this can become another barrier to the purchase being made.
Understand buyers’ fears
As sales people, we must understand the fears that our buyers have and try and build reassurance into the process and offer.
John Lewis, for instance, has used the strapline “never knowingly undersold” for many years. This reassures customers that by buying from John Lewis they will not pay too much. If they see the same item cheaper in another store, John Lewis will refund the difference.
Good retailers also attempt to reassure buyers about the product they are buying. Most retailers will accept a returned item with a valid receipt, as long as it is not damaged. This helps relieve the buyer of any fears that the purchase will not work out.
Testimonials are an excellent way of dispelling concerns about what other people will think. By demonstrating that many others have bought the item or service, they feel they are in good company. Social proof, in whatever form it takes, can be a very effective way of demonstrating that there is little risk to a buyer’s reputation, whether in consumer or business-to-business sales.
Breaking down the sales process
Breaking down a purchase into incremental steps is also very effective. It means the changes necessary to use a new product or service can appear smaller.
Software sales are a good example. Trials can often be downloaded, after which basic versions can be purchased. Over time, customers can be migrated to more expensive packages. These products are more easily sold in incremental steps.
Failure to understand the real fears that buyers have, and to build as much reassurance into your offering as possible, will mean opportunities for sales are missed.