Why people buy (and why they've bought from me)
Is there a secret or hidden formula to why people buy?
Businesses are constantly trying to figure out why people sign on the dotted line and how to get them to do it more often.
People make purchasing decisions for all sorts of reasons. There are plenty of sales books and marketing research dedicated to the psychology of buying.
I’ve had a few different sales jobs, but I didn’t really have any sustained success until I started selling IT data storage.
Now that I’m at ReluTech, I oversee the storage products we sell, and I regularly work with sales reps who are trying to sell to all types of organizations. Basically, I try to make it easier for them to sell storage.
Let me go ahead and get something out of the way: I’m not the best salesman. It didn’t take too long for me to learn this. But over a few years, I was able to get some great customers, and after a while, I began to learn what I was doing right to keep them around. After several days of consideration, I’ve come up with eight primary reasons I was able to build a loyal customer base.
I realized early on that my responsiveness, or my time, was the main thing I had to give. If a customer sent me an email, I’d respond immediately if I could. If someone needed a quote, I would get it to them the same day if at all possible. People would order from me because I could usually get them their equipment before their VAR could even get them a quote.
Notice I didn’t say the lowest price. Sometimes my price was the lowest; sometimes it wasn’t. What my customers could always count on was that I never tried to get away with anything. Some salespeople will punish customers for their loyalty. If they know you’re not price shopping, they’ll try to hit a home run on the deal and brag to their buddies about it later. This is a horrible way to do business. One, it’s not right. Two, if you get caught, you damage the relationship—irreparably in many cases.
There are two kinds of trust, in my opinion. For a customer to buy from you, they have to trust you to be honest, and they have to trust you to be competent. Throughout every step in the sales process, I would try to prove I had both of those qualities. If we set a meeting, I’d be on time. If we weren’t the best fit for the customer on a certain project, I’d admit it. If I didn’t know the answer to a question, I wouldn’t try to fake it. And if I told them I’d find out and get back to them, I’d actually do it. (It’s amazing how many people don’t.)
Easy to work with
Working for a small company has its advantages. You can provide flexible options for the customer. You can quickly get approval on certain requests. You can design your quotes so that the customer can easily explain to management what he’s trying to buy. If an existing customer needs you to go ahead and ship while he scrambles to get the purchase order signed, you can do it. ReluTech has all of these advantages, and it makes life easier, especially for our customers.
Building rapport isn’t about buddying up to someone, making jokes, or finding out that you both like fishing. I’ve never been the funniest, or the smartest, or even the friendliest sales rep. I don’t try to be any of those “est” words. I just try to relate to the other person and develop our business relationship. If we work together long enough and become friends, great! But there’s no point in forcing it. Rapport is what occurs when both parties are aligned in their ultimate goal—finding the right solution.
I listened, I took notes, and I made it a point to prove that I had done both. Whenever I brought up something a customer said on a previous call, it gave him an indication that I had his best interest (rather than my own agenda) in mind.
There are plenty of people who make great money with little knowledge of the products they’re selling. Maybe those people just wind up in the right place at the right time, or maybe they’re so skilled in the art of sales that they can overcome their ignorance. For me, though, I learned and researched the products I sold until I could answer the frequently asked questions and essentially handle some of the legwork for the customer. This goes back to building trust (see above). If you display a basic knowledge of your product, customers will be able to trust you when you tell them it’s the right solution.
Once I asked a potential customer what he looked for in a vendor, and he said, “When things go wrong—and they will go wrong at some point—how do you handle it?” This made a lot sense to me. Things are going to go wrong in IT. Ideally, every sale would be a completely smooth transaction, but even when a customer buys a brand new system and has the manufacturer install it, that’s not always the case. I don’t mind saying I’ve been in plenty of deals that needed fixing. (And any IT salesperson who hasn’t been in those deals probably hasn’t booked much business.) But I can honestly say that all of those customers stuck with me until we made everything right, and it’s because of how I handled them. (One customer told me this directly.) I never ran away from the problem, and I stayed responsive. When a deal went south, I treated it like a lost child: There was no other priority. Not only did I avoid the dreaded return, but most of these customers bought from me again.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about these “reasons people buy” because we have our share of young reps at ReluTech. We have some sales reps from other industries and some who don’t even have a sales background. My goal is to get each of these reps to embrace the characteristics that make customers want to buy from them over and over again.
But you don’t start building a loyal customer base without first giving them reasons to be loyal. That’s why thinking about why people buy is an exercise worth doing on a regular basis.