Med One Blog

Selling is from Mars, Buying is from Venus

Planets of the Solar System

By Ibby Smith Stofer

We have all heard of the book, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” which delves into the comparison between the two genders. But has a similar comparison been made about the dichotomy between selling and buying? Surely we have all realized that a salesman and a customer have two different thought processes during the same sales transaction. Well, understanding the differences could determine the success of your sale.

To illustrate what it takes to be successful in sales today, we need to look at the situation from the customer’s and then the sales representative’s point of view. We can use a hypothetical situation to demonstrate these different perspectives.

Same Process Different Views

Sales Process
Background known to the representative
  • 250 bed independent hospital
  • Affiliated with freestanding clinic and surgery center
  • Have used competitors’ product or service in the hospital for several years
  • Group membership confirmed
  • CNO and CIO lead the product selection committee
Sales Strategy
  • Confirm satisfaction or dissatisfaction with clinical users and material managers.
  • Utilize competitors’ recent issues and failures to create urgency to change providers
  • Share own company market dominance, product superiority and the company’s customer testimonials
  • Develop proposal that centers on the strong track record of our product or service compared to competitors
  • Pricing based on group purchasing terms and conditions
Sales Process
  • Meet with department heads and material management to insure they are aware of the issues the current supplier is experiencing and its impact on the staff and or patients.
  • Advise them that your product has a flawless record and that many organizations have already made the switch to your company
  • Provide a proposal that highlights these strengths and account conversions in their geography
  • Offer terms and conditions from identified group purchasing arrangement
Customer Buying Process
Background known to the committee
  • Current technology is not performing well and can not be integrated with clinics and surgery center
  • Five companies offer similar products
  • GPO terms offer flexibility for multi system providers
  • Final selection will be based on clinical usage, ability to interface with multiple IT systems, input from finance and clinical engineering as well as best price/terms
Customer Strategy
  • Utilize all available on line and business resources to narrow the field to top 2 before talking to reps from any companies.
  • Complete a must have list of both features and benefits from Clinical, IT and Finance
  • Prioritize the list for each group and use multi voting to identify top 23 for each area and to create multi disciplined selection criteria
  • Request for proposals will be evaluated against the multi disciplined list and only those who meet 80% will be invited to present to the committee
  • Utilize on line negotiation system for final terms and conditions as well as pricing
Customer Process
  • Begin an internet search to identify FDA issues for each company
  • Read all reviews and testimonials to identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Utilize private company to identify similar price and term offerings over the last 12 months
  • Discuss with GPO representative the pricing and terms flexibility in their contract for this category of products or services
  • Visit similar companies using the same technology to see it in operation
  • Include the CIO as well as Nursing in all visits and discussions
  • Prioritize top must haves as well as possible deal blockers by clinicians, IT and finance.

Does it feel like you are looking at this opportunity in two different languages? Our customer is focused on problems and solutions, while our rep is focused on his competition’s issues. How do you think our hypothetical sales person will do in this situation?

It seems that the “Let Me Tell You About How We Are the Best” approach may be out of sync with the customer’s needs and expectations. Today, when companies and reps sell business-to-business, it’s not about you, your company, or your product. It is about the NEEDS of the customer.

Your potential customers have 24-7 internet access to vital information about your product or service, your competitor’s products and services, as well as reviews and comments from others users. Nearly 75% of business customers have completed over half of their decision process before ever talking with a field-based sales representative.

Should we even call the “company view” a sales process any longer? Companies and representatives need to change their processes and strategies to better align with the customer’s process and access to information. Many experts recommend that companies change sales training to focus on the customer’s buying process rather than features and benefits. It appears that the traditional sales approach is often filled with assumptions about the customer’s problems, issues or needs, while customer-buying processes want companies to provide the solution. If the company doesn’t understand the customer’s problem, how can they do this?

Companies need to send clear messages about how they solve problems for potential customers, who they are, and why customers choose to do business with them. Marketing needs to provide consistent messaging together with tools focused on the customer and assistance in the sales transition. Social media and blogs as well as direct-targeted solution-based campaigns are among new tools used to demonstrate that companies are problem solvers, not just product or services providers.

Sales teams can begin transitioning from ‘talkers’ to problem solvers by researching the industry and the targeted customer. The following comparison highlights this process.

Let the Transition Begin
Industry Research
  • Identify the problems and challenges the industry is trying to eliminate or solve
  • Create a list of problems and indicate how your product or service will help them solve the challenge or eliminate the problem.
  • Focus the solution on the customers desired state that you find in your research:
  • Can we provide solutions that eliminate waste or duplication or cut costs?
  • Does your solution allow for multiple system interfaces, eliminate ongoing product issues?
  • Do we understand everyone who will or is impacted by the problem we are attempting to solve?
Customer Specific Research
  • Use the Internet, your past experience with them and your relationships to develop an understanding of
  • The current situation
  • The desired situation
  • The gap that exists
  • Use a multi-disciplined approach looking at each area of the customer’s business that will be touched by your product or service.
  • Ask yourself and your company how they use the technology or service
  • How much training will be required? Who will do that?
  • Are interfaces to other systems needed? Who coordinates that type of project?
  • Research the customer’s website, individuals and groups on social media. It is here that you may find some gems of insight you might have missed.
  • Doing Research

    After you have performed this research you will be better prepared. You will understand that your discussions should not center on you, your company, product or the competition. Rather, they should revolve around how you can help resolve the customer’s problems and challenges. They have already chosen the product or service they believe will help them, and you are fortunate to be in the running. They want you to know how to help them.

    You need for the customer to see you as an expert who has already walked in their shoes and solved this type of problem before. If you rely on product features and benefits or past relationships within the account, you are not offering what most customers want, need or are willing to pay for. And that, in a word, is help. What they need is a person’s expertise to make the offering work for them. Will that be you? It’s time you replace one four-letter word with another: be a HELP person, not a SELL person.