No, not the band, of course.
If you've read any of Stephan Schiffman's Sales Training books you'll know he believes the number one competitor of any sales person to be “The Status Quo”. In other words, rather than going with you or a competitor, the customer decides to do nothing. Either not buy, or stick with who they're currently got.
Paul McCord posted an excellent piece on this recently: Recognizing Your Biggest Competitor.
By the way, if someone knows how Paul manages to write so many high quality posts so frequently, please tell me!
I dropped a comment in on his blog, but I wanted to expand here, as I feel there's a side to this that isn't often explored.
Usually, when people talk about a customer deciding to do nothing, they recommended better qualification (to classify the customer as a tyre-kicker early on and not to waste time with them) or more aggressive closing techniques to push the customer into making their mind up.
But in my experience, the biggest reason why customers decide to do nothing in large sales situations is not because they're timewasters, or that they need to be pushed into action.
The issue is most often that they haven't been fully convinced that the value of what you're selling outweighs the cost for them.
It's not that you haven't talked about the business case for what you're selling, or shown how it meets the customer's needs. The problem is most often that you just haven't spent enough time fully exploring the customer's expressed needs and identifying the wider and deeper needs – and corresponding costs and impacts – that underlie it.
Typically what happens in a sales situation is that the minute we hear a customer express a need that our product can solve, we jump straight into “selling mode”. We talk about the benefits of the product, how it can solve their problem, and what the business case for doing that is.
But the problem is that by jumping straight to the solution we didn't allow the customer to fully discover how big their problem actually was.
It’s very common for customers to initially believe their problems are “annoying but not worth solving” (for example a computer system that’s difficult to use) – but then on deeper exploration to realise it’s causing them huge problems downstream (lost productivity, errors in customer records, bad customer service, etc.) which definitely are worth solving.
It's up to you to lead that further discussion. By using your experience of similar problems you can use questioning and examples to help the customer discover for themselves just how significant their problem is.
And so suddenly, the solution you then offer doesn't look so expensive after all. Suddenly its costs are far outweighed by the size of the problem it solves.
I’ve found this ability to “build up” the perception of a problem (not falsely – it’s all about helping the customer realise the true impact) is a key skill in large sales. Most professionals – and even trained sales people jump straight from hearing a need that their product can solve into selling the benefits of the product and trying to close.
They don’t spend nearly enough time exploring the problem itself and its impact with the customer.
But by doing this full exploration a salesperson can turn a “Status Quo” loss into a big win.