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Why is it so Hard to Buy?

By Jody Hornor |

For anyone who likes to shop, you may think I'm in an enviable position. My brother is moving part of his company here - I've been asked to help him find space, buy furniture and get settled. I've got about a $400,000 cash budget to make it happen.

On my other clients' behalf, I've been trying to buy a number of different products and services, from mailing services, a $10,000 software program, and thousands of dollars of printing and advertising space - all in all, probably another $100,000 budgeted by my various client companies.

So why isn't this fun?

The short answer -- salespeople don't know how to sell!

When I started shopping for furniture, about a $250,000 proposition, I called all four of the big corporate furniture dealers. I explained the situation, including the fact that I didn't know much about buying furniture so might need a little extra help, and asked them for their assistance.

First thing they all did was to load me up with a lot of furniture catalogs -- who cares? I'm trying to buy help, and they're trying to sell me furniture. We have a fundamental problem from the get go -- they haven't listened to my needs. I'm far more interested in how they can help me plan this project and how they'll make sure it will go smoothly.

I don't take a quarter million dollar purchase lightly, and neither does my brother. But, I practically had to beg just to get a meeting with these supposedly reputable firms. I met with each, reiterating that I needed 'help', not furniture - not yet anyhow.

To add insult to injury, because I live in a remote area, I had to go to them to meet - that way they could make me sit on chairs that I didn't care about. When asked "Why should I buy from you instead of your competition" their standard pat answer was "service," of course. So I thought, 'OK', let them put their money where their mouth was.

Their 'help' at this point was to offer to do a preliminary bid. So I said 'OK' thinking this must be the right next step or they wouldn't all have insisted on it. So I waited. And I waited. No calls. No mail. No bid. And NO help. So I called them - didn't reach any of the reps direct, but left messages on their voice mail.

And I waited. And waited….. three days later I got a call back from one rep who apologized all over herself. When I told her I needed help, she sent me a 15 page fax of product specs and prices that I could take "somewhere between 40% & 50% off… she'd let me know". And she promised to stay in closer touch. That was a week ago. No calls saying "did you understand it?" or "Can I be of help?"

The other reps returned my calls 7 days after my 'do you want my business' call to them. Now I don't know about you, but I'm not spending a quarter million dollars on anything with any company who doesn't show me better service than that! When I've spent my money, will they take 7 plus days to respond to problems? Will I have to fight about everything because they obviously don't listen? Will they force me to spend lots of extra time documenting everything - just to cover my bases? No thanks! If my money's no more important than that, then I'll just give it to a company who demonstrates that they want my business - and will follow-up after the fact.

Similar stories have occurred with approximately 10 potential vendors in the past 30 days. They didn't return calls, they didn't listen, and they didn't follow-up. But, luckily, I did find a furniture company that worked hard to help (I guess 1 out of 4 has to be OK). And I have taken care of my other purchase needs - but I had to literally force most of the sales people to do their job and enable me to buy from them.

Believe me, if you think you like to shop, these people would change your mind in a heartbeat.

Now, as a marketing expert and sales trainer, let me give you some facts:

  • In fact, 80% of all sales occur on the 5th or subsequent sales call after an initial inquiry. Yet studies show most salespeople only persist through 2 or 3.
  • Twenty six point six percent (26.6%) of all inquiries result in purchases, one-third of them occur within three months of inquiring; and, 21.6% were likely to purchase in the future.
  • Yet in 18 percent of the requests for information, none was received; 43% of the time the material was received too late to be of use, and only 28% of the inquirers were ever contacted by a salesperson.
Think about how much money and energy you've put into developing strategies and advertising campaigns. If you drop the ball here, you've just thrown your money out the door.

According to studies, the percentage of sales made on a contact that was aggressively followed up was over 80% -- more than twice that of the group that got no follow-up.

Cahners Advertising Research reports that while 94% of advertising inquirers received a reply of some sort, only 11% received a telephone call and only 4% received a salesperson's visit.

My recent experience tells me that not nearly enough sales people and managers know these vital facts. If they do, they fail to do anything about them in how they service their prospects. And, from my experience, how they service prospects is very much how they service customers. If you don't get help to buy, then rarely will they put much energy into keeping you happy once you do purchase!

If sales success is what you seek, this article is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to take the bull by the horns… my article on follow-up.

If you take the initiative to master this aspect of sales, you'll outperform 90% or more of your peers and reach much higher levels of income than ever before.

Happy selling!

Canadian, Eh!

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