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Enabling B2B Sales & Marketing

The Buyer Test: How to Spot a Genuine Customer

Posted by Bruce Rasmussen on 24-Feb-2017 15:16:25

The Buyer Test - How to Spot a Genuine Customer.jpgIn our last article, we celebrated those wonderful sales prospects who are brave enough to tell us the truth and reject a sales proposal if it’s not for them.

They don’t lead us on to avoid confrontation, or waste our time by requesting a quote that they’re never going to read, let alone accept. Their honesty means we can both move on - but unfortunately, all too often in sales this is not how it goes.

Often buyers deal with salespeople face-to-face, which has many advantages. But for the conflict averse, having a salesperson in front of them means they’re not willing to be direct. They’ll feign interest and ask for a quote, even when they’ve already made up their minds that they don’t want to move forward with the purchase. Does this sound familiar?

So how do we spot this situation and avoid wasting our time on proposals that are going nowhere? We need a test.

How It Usually Plays Out

You’ve just had coffee with your prospect and it seems to have gone well. It ends something like this:

Buyer: “What you’re saying sounds excellent – can you put a proposal together for me?”

Seller: “Of course! When do you need it?”

Buyer: “Oh there’s no real hurry.” (This is a definite warning sign!)

You head back to the office feeling great. You let your Sales Manager know that things are looking positive. “Great news boss – we’ve got a live one here. I’ll stay up late and get this proposal sorted.”

That night you burn the midnight oil putting together a killer proposal, and send it to your prospect first thing in the morning. Then you wait. And wait. And wait some more. Still, there’s no contact from the buyer. 

The Eventual Rejection

When you don’t hear back, at first you rationalise - maybe they’ve been really busy? Or perhaps they’ve been off work sick? After a week, you place a follow-up call.

Seller: “Hi there. Just following up to see what you thought of the quote?”

Buyer: “It was a great quote, but we just don’t have the budget for it at the moment. Call me back in three months.”

In this scenario, there’s a fair chance that they threw your quote in the bin as soon as they received it. The budget never existed. The buyer never wanted to buy your product or service. They knew all this at your last meeting – they just weren’t prepared to be direct and say, “Look – I’m afraid you’re wasting your time. Let’s end the meeting here”. 

The Buyer Test

So how do we avoid this all too familiar charade? You need to be able to tell the serious prospects from the conflict averse – and you can do this by using the “buyer readiness test”. The test is simple – all you need to do is get the buyer to agree to take an action. If they do, they’re interested, if they don’t, you’re probably wasting your time.

For example, using the test, the above scenario would have been more like this:

Buyer: “What you’re saying sounds excellent – can you put a proposal together for me?”

Seller: “Sure, no problem. But to make sure I get it right, I want to come back in a couple of days with some brief thoughts on a couple of slides. They’ll show what our approach will be, how it will address your issue and what you’ll get out of it. I won’t need more than 15 minutes – what day works for you?”

Straight away, your buyer will fall into one of two camps.

Buyer 1: ‘’Oh, that won’t be necessary. Sounds to me like you know exactly what we need. Just go ahead and do up the quote.”

Buyer 2: “Actually, that’s a good idea – we both want to get this right. How’s Thursday morning?”

Can you see the difference? Buyer 1 wasn’t invested at all, just trying to get rid of the seller. But by agreeing to take an action, Buyer 2 relayed that they were genuinely interested, and were prepared to spend some more time going over things. Of the two buyers, I know which one I’d be staying up late to prepare a quote for! 

Not All Actions Are Equal

While action is the aim, be aware that not all actions are equal. Agreeing to another meeting is a good action. Yes, they can always cancel, but at least you’ll know within a couple of days, instead of waiting all week for a phone call. Promising to read something you send them is not a good action (although, with modern platforms like HubSpot, you can see exactly if or when someone reads your material, irrespective of whether you’ve emailed them or they’ve visited your website).

It’s not unreasonable to request further information from a prospect to complete your quote and a questionnaire is a great way to encourage good action. With tools such as SurveyMonkey, it takes about five minutes to whip up a short five question survey, and you can use this questionnaire over and over. When you ask your prospects to complete it, you’ll see a divide. Some will do it (they are the real deal) and others won’t (they’re not really interested). If your customer takes the time to complete the questionnaire, that’s a clear indicator that they’re keen.

Stop Wasting Your Valuable Time

Time is precious in sales. You can never get back that two hours you spend putting together a proposal for someone who – in hindsight – just wasn’t interested. Remember - if your “hit rate” is one in two, you’re wasting half your professional life.

Maybe you already have a range of buyer tests in place – if not try some out. If you ask each buyer in your current pipeline to take an action, do you think you’d end up with a smaller, but better qualified pipeline? Definitely! When you use buyer tests, you can stop wasting time on prospects who are just stringing you along – and you’ll free up more time to work with those who are genuinely keen.

Over to You

Do you have a buyer test you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it!

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