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The Hidden Sales Cycle: Are you ignoring it?

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“The Hidden Sales Cycle” is the activity that takes place prior to first contact between seller and buyer. This is when the buyer uses the internet and/or direct social connections to investigate possible solutions to a perceived need. They might visit your website, read user reviews, rank alternatives, and potentially sift through analyst perspectives among other things. Two studies indicate this occurs in as much as 60% of all enterprise class purchases. It becomes a problem for the seller when the buyer reaches premature conclusions based on a competitor’s positioning, incorrect information, or incomplete information.

This means that sellers must be ready to “re-frame” the perspective of the buyer during their initial discussions. For this reason, I’m suggesting that the Hidden Sales Cycle be acknowledged and used as the basis for a re-framing discussion.

  1. Start your early conversations with an inquiry about the homework the buyer has conducted using the internet or other means.
  2. Ask them to describe the problems they  are trying to address. After this bring up several additional problems that are potentially in play for the buyer and connect those to your capabilities. For instance, “Ms Customer, many of our other customers tell us that they were not able to see how their customers were using their product, which made it difficult to identify bugs, or specify an enhancement list with proper prioritization. Is that an issue for you?” Ideally, this problem resonates with the buyer, can be solved by your solution better than other solutions, and was not a problem the buyer had previously considered addressing during their preliminary investigation. That’s the science of re-framing the vision in your favor.
  3. As the old shampoo upsell states, “rinse and repeat”. Establish a few more problems that re-frame their vision of the problem set and the solution. This differentiates you on your professional approach as well as your product or service.

Using problems to re-frame your buyer’s perspective will also increase your credibility which is required to motivate the contact to take you to other stakeholders to socialize your problem set and related solution further.

Since the internet has become a fixture in the sales process, re-framing skills have become a “must have” skill set. As an exercise for your team, you can brainstorm to identify a set of capabilities within your solution that would resonate with a buyer type or a key vertical segment. Then, for each capability have the team identify what problem it solves for the customer. They may come up with more than one problem for each differentiating capability which gives them even more ammunition in a re-framing discussion. Don’t forget to capture the tribal knowledge and spread it around!

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