How to determine what, when, and how prospective buyers wish to make a purchase
In a sales environment in which consumers now have much more information — and thus have much more control – during the purchase decision process than ever before, those who sell must be much more aware of what is most important to each prospective buyer. The challenge is to obtain that information. How? In this book, Kristin Zhivago offers a “system” by which to do that. This system (best explained within the book’s narrative, in context) is based on this premise: Previous and current buyers buyers will reveal to sellers what they need to know in order to increase the chances of a sale to prospective buyers. Up to a point, I agree. That is, if approached properly, many prospective buyers will also reveal what they know or think they know about their preferences. That is the core premise of Neil Rackham’s approach, “SPIN Selling.”
However, as revealed in recently published books such as Martin Lindstrom’s Buyology and then Brandwashed and in Adrian Slywotzky’s Demand, it is also true of many prospective buyers that they (a) do not know specifically what they want although claim they “will know it when they see it”, (b) often make emotional rather than rational decisions, (c) many of those decisions are made subconsciously rather than consciously, and/or (d) they can be manipulated by an environment within which sensory experiences can be a decisive factor.
All that said, Zhivago offers a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective system that consists of three steps: Discover (i.e. find out what buyers want and how they want to go about buying it), Debate (i.e. resolve the differences between what buyers want versus what you offer for sale as well how they buy versus how you sell), and Deploy (i.e. document a buyer’s buying process so that you can support them every step of the way, then build an action plan). She identifies the “what” of the process involved but devotes most of her attention to explaining its “how” and “why.”
Note: In the version of this review that was first published, I questioned the appropriateness of the word “debate” and I still do, much preferring a word such as “Resolve” to suggest what the second step of the process involves. Zhivago provided a clarification that I now quote in part: “the ‘debate’ in the meeting is not at all ‘against’ the customer. On the contrary, everyone in the room is united in an effort to match their own decisions and activities to the preferences and needs revealed in the interviews and the resulting Conversation and Summary/Recommendations reports.
“The only exception to this, in my experience, is any die-hard jerk in the room who has no respect for customers and who does not have a helpful character. I avoid doing business with jerks, so this usually isn’t a problem, but every so often there may be one jerk in the room who drags down the meeting.”
Her comments prompted me to re-read the relevant passages in the book and I now defer to her clarification. Read the book and decide for yourself. Her key points, and I do agree, are to (a) know what you need to know about a buyer’s purchase preferences (even if she or he doesn’t know), (b) formulate an appropriate plan based on that information, and (c) execute the plan, committing whatever resources and taking whatever action(s) may be necessary to ensure its success.
She devotes a separate chapter to each of these strategic objectives:
o How to support a customer’s buying process
o How to support the “light scrutiny” buying process
o How to support the “medium scrutiny” buying process
o How to support the “heavy scrutiny” buying process
o How to support the “intense scrutiny” buying process
o How to keep an organization on its road to revenue
Like any other map, The “Buying Process Roadmap” defines parameters, suggests distances (e.g. information gaps), identifies options, and facilitates, indeed expedites completion of a journey. In this case, the objective (obviously) is to complete a series of sales transactions in ways and to an extent that a buyer has an on-going relationship that will result in (a) additional purchases and (b) endorsements to others within the buyer’s realm of influence. In a phrase, to become what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba characterize as a customer “evangelist.”
More a quibble than a complaint, an Index is needed. Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out the aforementioned books as well as Fred Reichheld’s The Ultimate Question 2: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World (Revised and Expanded Edition).