Understanding the buying process: three questions a print sales person should ask to find out if a buyer is serious

Posted by Matthew Parker

How many times has a prospect used your price to beat down their existing supplier?

It’s a situation which has happened to most printing companies that I know. Let’s face it, most customers are more likely to stay with their existing printer unless they are given a very good reason to move. A small price reduction is rarely enough.

Print salespeople face a problem.

Why do prospects show buying signs when they have no intention of purchasing?

We’ve all been there: we believe we have had a great conversation with the prospect. Then they carry on using their current supplier.

The prospect asked all the right questions. They seemed genuinely interested in your company. They were carefully noting all the good ideas that you came up with.

Some print salespeople believe that this sort of questioning from a prospect is a great buying sign. However, many buyers will ask these questions from suppliers they have no intention of using. It is simply part of their research process. Then they stick with their current supplier.

That’s why print sales people needs to understand the prospect’s buying process

Is your print prospect playing you off against the competition?

Is your print prospect playing you off against the competition?

Sales people who research the prospect’s buying process will have much more control over the sales process. They will know when to continue a conversation and when they are wasting their time. They will be able to focus on creating worthwhile relationships. These sales people are the most likely to achieve their sales targets.

Sales people who fail to research the prospect’s buying process may well struggle to achieve their sales targets. It is the buyer who will control the sales process. The salesperson may think they are creating a great relationship but, in actual fact, the buyer may well be treating them as a commodity supplier.

So how do you avoid this situation? Here are three questions you should be asking.

Ask why the prospect is speaking to you

You need to understand why you are having a conversation with the prospect. Is it worth your while to spend time on the conversation? Or does the prospect have no intention of ever placing any work with you?

If you ask a prospect directly why they are speaking to you, you will often get a good idea of how serious they are.  You need to be wary if the prospect waffles on about always being interested in a chat with a supplier. But it’s a great sign if they mention a specific issue for which they need a supplier.

That’s when you can move onto the next question.

Ask the prospect about their buying process

You need to understand the stages that someone is going through to make their purchasing decision. Will you need to complete a supplier audit? Are there specific buying stages that you need to complete?

Sometimes you end up in lengthy conversations while not going through the buying process. Then you need to be asking questions.

Here’s a direct question you can use.

Ask what you need to do to get the work

This is a very direct question. But it can be very effective. If the prospect is telling you that you will win work if you go through certain processes, you can hold them to this later. In effect, you are making a verbal agreement. You should remind the buyer of this if they fail to stick to their side of the bargain.

Some print sales people may feel that these questions will achieve little.

Why should a prospect tell me the truth?

You may be surprised at how many buyers are open and honest! Naturally, not all buyers are like this. But you will get a good idea from their answers to these questions about whether they are serious about dealing with you.

What if you feel that your time is being wasted?

Don’t be afraid to walk away from a prospect

There is no point in wasting your time on someone who will not buy. You may also find that you actually increase somewhat interesting you by threatening to walk away.

You will show that you are not desperate for the work. You will show that you are a supplier who understands that they need the right clients. You will show that you can’t just be treated as a commodity supplier.

Let’s look at an example of this

I was once approached by a company who wanted me to obtain a print price for them. Rather than just give a price and hope for the best, I started questioning them. It soon became apparent that there was a new business opportunity. However, they were approaching as many printers as possible.

Therefore, I declined to quote. I knew I would have been wasting my time.

Here’s three action points to stop prospects wasting your time

  1. Brief your sales team on these questions
  2. Make sure that time-consuming and complicated quotes are audited. By this, I mean that someone is checking that all the right questions have been asked before you start work on them
  3. Review your quote conversion rates. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results

Research matters

If you understand your prospect’s buying process you will get better sales results. There will be less times when you look forward to working on a project only to find it’s staying with the existing supplier.
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5 Responses to Understanding the buying process: three questions a print sales person should ask to find out if a buyer is serious

  • Ron Boyle says:

    Thanks Matt,
    All spot on,… as usual. I find some young sales representatives are afraid to ask direct questions, thinking it’s impolite or they’ll upset the apple cart if they ask. That’s why I like all your points above.

    It’s OK to ask. I remember one of my mentors, Don Griffin telling me: “You are now a business owner and you have every right to ask; “If I do that, …what happens next?” – to get some commitment before you come back and ask your President to commit company resources to answer or solve a client problem/question” (those that knew Mr Griffin know that I’ve cleaned that quote up a fair bit :)
    Thanks as always, very helpful content.
    Cheers

    • Matthew Parker says:

      Hello Ron, thank you for your kind comments. It’s great to have someone of your standing endorse these strategies.

      Matthew

  • Pingback: Successful printing sales techniques to qualify profitable clients | Profitable Print Relationships

  • Matt,
    Shared the article with my team this morning!

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