9 Buying Concerns That May Derail Your Sale

By Martyn R. Lewis

Good salespeople from good companies offering good products or services, often fail to close the deal. While something needs fixing, you can only beat up on sales and marketing for so long. Also, they’re rarely the problem. Because for the most part, your customers see the value of your offer and accept the positive ROI numbers. So why don’t they buy?

Let’s start with this. Rather than focusing on your own internal view of how to position and sell your offerings, look instead to the external reality of how your customers actually buy. Simply put, how do customers buy your stuff? What is the process, what’s involved in your customer’s buying journey? As it turns out, quite a lot.

Research conducted with thousands of buyers has shown patterns emerging, the “DNA” so to speak of the customer buying journey. Within that DNA are six major strands, and the one that causes most of the problems is Buying Concerns. These concerns – friction, barriers, pinch points, call them what you will – are perhaps the most important facets of the buying journey. Widely overlooked and the least understood, these are the inhibitors that can slow down and/or stop a customer’s buying journey.

However, there’s good news too, because it has been found that there is a similar occurrence of buying concerns across the buying journey for a particular offering in a particular market. This means that concerns can be identified, mapped, and thus anticipated. Here they are organized into nine categories, and remember that we are looking at these buying concerns from the customer’s point of view only.

1. Process
The actual Process – purchasing, sourcing, etc. – within the buying organization set up expressly for the acquisition of products and services. A concern could simply come down to the fact that there is no process for acquiring the offering, or that the process is too onerous for the buyer to face.

2. Priority
When talking to buyers, numerous examples of potential purchases were found that they truly believed would bring value, but it just wasn’t a Priority at that time. Can those priorities be changed? Yes, but far from common unless some unanticipated major event or influence acts upon the buyer. Certainly not a wishful buyer within the company, or a hungry sales rep without.

3. Individual
The Individual who is “carrying the ball” at any stage of the customer buying journey. This individual may change across the steps, but every buying journey is dependent on an individual to move it forward. Also note that this isn’t necessarily what used to be termed the “decision-maker”; rather, it is the person who needs to own or sponsor the buying journey at any particular point in the overall process.

4. Organizational
Called Organizational, yet this area could equally be called Political. These are all the social/political barriers, activities, objections, and concerns that are likely to come up across the organization that can slow or stop the progress of the buying journey. A dynamic network of individuals makes buying decisions in today’s world, and each person is going to bring different agendas, motivations, perspectives, and perceptions to the process.

 5. Alternatives
All the Alternatives an organization must consider before they move forward with a particular acquisition. To consider are the obvious alternative offerings, such as competitive offerings from different suppliers. And of course, the easiest alternative of all is often status quo, doing nothing.

6. Business
The fiscal side of the equation—the Business case. Is there a complete, compelling and funded business reason to trigger and move forward through a buying journey? This may be a simple back-of-the-napkin guesstimate of affordability, all the way to a formal and comprehensive cost analysis. In all cases, the fundamental concern is if the value outweighs the costs.

7. Implications
The Implications of acquisition and adoption – what actually happens when someone buys and uses the offering. Will they need to train people? What else might they need to acquire? Will they have to stop doing business with an incumbent supplier?

8. Fit
Fit has to do with how a potential acquisition aligns with how and what the customer would usually buy. Are you bringing something new and revolutionary to a cautious wait-and-see type? Are you offering the same old, same old to a bleeding-edge innovator?

9. Change
Change can be deadly; this is potential deal-breaker territory. This buying concern has to do with the change that will occur, or even the perception of change that will occur on acquisition and adoption of the offering. It doesn’t matter if the reasons are valid or imaginary, proven or perceived—the change that an organization thinks it will have to endure is the buying concern that can most significantly slow or stop the buying journey.

So, what to do with all this?  A good place to start is with your own customers. Ask questions.

  • Discover what goes on in your own market’s buying journey. Talk to some customers about who got involved when they bought your offerings, what happened, and what they were concerned with.
  • Refer to the nine Buying Concerns and map out your own customers’ potential concerns, anxieties and friction that can occur as they consider buying and using your offering.
  • For each of these areas of friction, what can you do to solve it? How could you go about minimizing or at least mitigating the buying concern before it comes up?
  • Don’t think, hope or pray that concerns won’t surface. Too many times, sales folk believed they were close to an order without realizing that the buying journey was in fact tangled up with one of these buying concerns.
  • Finally, and here’s the kicker: it takes only one unresolved buying concern to stop a customer buying journey dead in its tracks.

Martyn R. Lewis is an expert in revenue generation. He consults globally with Fortune 500 companies across 44 countries. His signature theory, the decoding of the Buying Journey DNA forms the underlying basis of his new book How Customers Buy…& Why They Don’t.