Societal upheaval over the past year has profoundly changed the buyer’s journey. Beyond mandates and restrictions, buyer behavior has been influenced by declining levels of trust in government, institutions, and other people. The result is that buyers have become less trusting and more firmly rooted in their beliefs.
This change creates exceptional challenges for sellers of complex solutions. Buyers are more risk averse, polarized, and hesitant to evaluate fresh solutions that do not meet preconceived ideas. To win in this environment, sellers must manage risk, create alignment, and establish trust.
In this context, managing risk is not about negotiating terms and conditions or implementing financial risk/reward mechanisms. It’s about education... educating buyers about the two sides of risk. Yes, there is risk in purchasing a new solution, but there is also risk in maintaining the status quo. Sellers need the education process to be even-handed and thoughtful.
Any discussion of risk should be complemented by mitigation strategies and their anticipated benefits. Ignoring or mishandling risk can cause fear in buyers, resulting in paralysis and an aversion to change. When sellers help buyers acknowledge and understand risk, and measure it against the expected outcomes, they have taken the first step toward gaining trust and changing the buyer’s point of view.
Achieving consensus among divergent stakeholders is an age-old challenge made even more difficult today. Sellers can gain consensus, or near consensus, by finding and nurturing the common ground held by all stakeholders.
Understanding each stakeholder’s objections and managing their risk profile (see above) helps expand and incorporate common ground into the rationale for change. And again, along the way, sellers gain credibility and buyers’ confidence.
Developing buyers’ trust requires transparency from sellers. Complex problems often require complex solutions with many moving pieces and parts. Consequently, buyers may be unsure of the scope and size of their problems and how to best solve them.
To overcome this uncertainty, value-based messaging and business cases should clearly articulate “what’s in it for buyers.” Sellers attain integrity through complete transparency of the expected benefits and costs.
Undoubtedly as buyers’ worldviews are changing, it is changing their buying behaviors. Sellers can still win by managing risk, creating alignment, and establishing trust.
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