I've written of the inconsistency of how business-to-business salespeople focus their energy on selling versus what buying decision-makers actually are looking for from a vendor. Sellers are taught to focus on pre-sales activities, and buyers are looking for predictors of how well they'll be supported after they make the purchase.
Sellers focus on presenting product or service features and making support commitments (words—often lots of words), and the customer is trying to predict performance (actions—or lack thereof). In making predictions, buying decision-makers have learned words are not enough; every salesperson is well-armed with those. All salespeople know how to make promises.
What buyers look for are actions. They look for activities that allow them to predict they are important to the seller, and that the salesperson has the chutzpah to see his commitments through.
All decision-makers with buying authority have had the same experience. Usually it happens early in their career. They establish an emotional connection to a salesperson based on personality profiling. "Oh, Joe is such a great guy, he reminds me of my buddies at college, he'll never let me down." And then he does! Joe makes the sale and is out on his next conquest. The buyer is disappointed with the product, and Joe is nowhere to be found.
Buyers want to avoid post-purchase trauma at all costs. Post-sale support failures cost them time and political capital. They learn early to look for the seller who will be there after the purchase and help them deal with any and all potential service disappointments.
So what helps the buyer predict good post-sales behavior on the part of the salesperson? Actions!
• Actions that demonstrate the seller cares about the buying organization and has a history of success.
• Actions that predict the seller is predisposed to post-sale support and understands the buyer's internal organizational stressors.
• Actions that show power and influence within their own organization, so they can see through on their commitments.
• Actions that show respect for the decision-maker's time.
• Actions that help the buyer win support from co-workers and internal customers.
• Actions that position the seller as trustworthy.
In short, there are specific actions that help buyers get over their fear of making a purchase. Without those actions, buyers are left with defending the purchase because they got "the lowest possible price." If you don't want to be the low-price person, then be the "best possible partner" and demonstrate exceptional post-sales support behaviors.
Mark Bishop is president of whatbuyerswant.net.