Coaxing B2B Sales from the Reluctant

by Chris Arlen on May 2, 2013

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Coaxing Reluctant B2B CustomersThey know they have a need. They know you can deliver, and they send out all the right buying signals; return your calls immediately; give you inside information; ask how long before you can start.

But they’re not pulling the trigger on the sale.

They’re the reluctant – those b2b customers who don’t make a buying decision after they’ve gone far down their buying path.

Fear is stopping them. They’re afraid they’ll:

  • make a mistake & look stupid
  • waste their firm’s time & money
  • get fired for making a bad decision

Sales reps are dying to help them get over that hump and make a decision.

A successful sales strategy is to get them a little bit pregnant by starting small, and then easing them into the successful future with your full product/service.

Here are several ways to structure b2b sales deals to help reluctant customers overcome their fear.

  • Discovery Project
  • Pilot Program
  • Soft Launch
  • Letter of Intent (LOI)
  • Free Trial

Discovery Project

In large complex sales, when customers balk at a big buy, there may be too many unknowns, which scares them into inaction.

Also, from the seller’s side, it’s often difficult to initially get enough information to accurately determine scope and costs.

A discovery project solves both problems. It breaks the total offer into a smaller, initial project that will define the bigger one.

The output of a discovery project defines deliverables, process, implementation plan, timelines, price, ROI and payback.

This makes it easier and less frightening for customers to buy.

A discovery project also provides sellers the chance to develop working relationships and demonstrate their professionalism to customers.

Don’t underestimate this emotional bonding as it feeds customers’ comfort with going on to the next step: the big sale of full implementation.

Pilot Program

A pilot program provides the opportunity to test out the seller’s product/service on a small scale (obviously the product/service must be capable of operating on less than full implementation).

Unlike a discovery project, in a pilot program the seller already knows their deliverables, process, implementation plan, timelines, price, ROI and payback.

The pilot demonstrates that the product/service works successfully in the customer’s environment and under their conditions. Nest step: the full deal.

Soft Launch

Like a pilot program, a soft launch performs to a limited customer audience and on a much smaller scale.

However, the soft launch is done is stealth mode. It keeps the product/service away from the customer’s full audience, hidden from their scrutiny.

This works well when there is potential for a spectacular failure. Soft launch’s let customers experiment, but without the egg on their face if the experiment blows up.

It also enables sellers to tweak their product/service based on what they find. Then it’s time for the full scale rollout.

Letter of Intent (LOI)

LOIs are agreements to continue with the next steps in a buying/sales process – typically during the latter stages of customers’ evaluations.

If sellers must put a lot of time and money to move along customers’ buying processes, they want to hear they’re seriously being considered as the number one choice – or why bother?

Sellers state in their LOIs that if their product/service passes these tests (i.e. performs to these goals in a pilot), then the customer will enter into a sales contract or agreement.

Though most LOIs are not intended to be legally binding contracts (though some can) they do layout the conditions and criteria for continuing forward to signing the deal – or if the conditions aren’t met, of walking away.

Free Trial

The free trial approach is similar to the “hold the puppy” trick – try it, you’ll like it.

Common for online software, in selected instances it may be strategically worth the risk to offer a free trial.

Again, this limited approach relies entirely on the product/service’s ability to operate on a low cost, or very limited basis.

Add These to Your Sales Arsenal

While you may not have an everyday use for these sales structures, there will come a time when one will fit perfectly. Save it up for that rainy day and help customers buy your product/service.

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