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HOW TO SUPPORT THE INTENSE SCRUTINY BUYING PROCESS

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INTENSE SCRUTINY

BUYING PROCESS ROADMAP

226

ROADMAP TO REVENUE

CUSTOMER ACTIONS SEARCHES & RESEARCHES

The Intense Scrutiny purchase includes everything involved in a Heavy Scrutiny Purchase, but with one important addition: the buyer and the seller "get married." The seller provides ongoing services to a client, in the form of consulting or care services, or in the course of custom-building a very expensive product. A lot is at stake, so the buyer has many concerns and questions. She can't afford for the project to fail, so she must choose very carefully. At this stage in her buying process, she spends a great deal of time searching for--and researching--all possible options. She studies articles, blogs, white papers, websites, and discussion groups. She asks others, whom she trusts, to make recommendations. She does not rush into this decision.

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COMPANY TASKS CREATE A GREAT PRODUCT OR SERVICE & MAKE IT EASY TO FIND IT

Interview buyers so you know what they want in your type of product or service, where they expect to find it, and the words/phrases they use to describe and search for it. Identify the Critical Characteristic. There will be more than one person involved in the Intense Scrutiny decision. Understand who these people are and what they care about. Build buyer personas and Buyer Scenarios for each buyer. Understand how well your competition is meeting client needs and where they fall short. Design the product or the service so it meets buyer needs. Don't try to push them into buying something that isn't good for them. Identify and articulate the promise that clients want you to keep--and that you can keep--with your product, people, processes, policies and passion. Make it easy to find in-depth information about your solution. Reading a comprehensive document is an early step in their buying process. Don't sell. Educate. The client won't "marry" you without coming to trust your character. Everything you and your staff do must be worthy of the client's trust. Always behave as if the client is in the room. Anything questionable will drive buyers away. Earn and maintain your reputation for service, leadership, and solid ethics.

HOW TO SUPPORT THE INTENSE SCRUTINY BUYING PROCESS

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CUSTOMER ACTIONS ASKS QUESTIONS & ANALYZES OPTIONS

The client will ask dozens of questions: How well will this meet my needs-- especially my most pressing needs? How much does it cost--to begin with, and over time? Are there hidden costs? Is it worth it? Am I taking the best approach? What other options do I have? What have others thought about this product or service--and the company? Can I trust their opinions and experience? What will be included? Is it available now? How easy is it to buy, install, and use? Will other buyers and users like it? Are they being helpful? Or are they just selling? Who are these people? Will I be comfortable working with them? What will happen when something goes wrong? What's included in the services provided--and what's not? Is the contract straightforward, or slippery? How will the relationship work? Who will be responsible for what? Is it easy to test before I buy? What do I find worrisome about this seller? How much will it matter, if my suspicions are borne out?

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COMPANY TASKS ANSWER QUESTIONS & HELP THE POTENTIAL CLIENT WEIGH OPTIONS

Know all the questions that potential clients ask when they're buying your product or service, and build a database where you store and continually update/improve your answers to those questions. Answer their questions everywhere-- your landing pages, websites, videos, diagrams, catalogs, emails, printed pieces, case studies, testimonials, white papers, webinars and seminars, speeches, blogs, and social media sites. Provide comparison tables. Show the costeffectiveness of your product over time or time savings possible due to your product or service. Describe and show how your product or service satisfies the Critical Characteristic, and keeps your brand promise. Provide the main buyer (the "champion") with materials she can use to convince others. It should be easy to contact a salesperson. Salespeople should respond immediately. Train them constantly, so they can answer general and specific client questions. If they don't know an answer, they should say so, then find out--fast. Send new educational information about the product or service to potential clients regularly, via emails that contain the content or link to it. Provide references the client can call.

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ROADMAP TO REVENUE

CUSTOMER ACTIONS DISCUSSES WITH OTHERS

The buyer has learned everything she can about you, from information provided by you and your salespeople, references, reviews, and other thirdparty influencers such as bloggers, journalists, prior clients, and analysts. She has discussed what she's learned with the other buyers, including what they like about your products, services, and company, and things they find less appealing. They've decided to ask you and the other finalists to pitch. They want to know how you propose to solve their particular problem. Personal chemistry plays an important role at this stage in the buying process. The meeting will most likely be face-toface. Participants--depending on the size of your company and the project-- may include you, your salesperson, and the people on your team who will be working with the client day-to-day. Sometimes, the minute the vendor walks in the door, the client makes her buying decision. She may be surprised and disappointed at the comportment of the people on your team, or feel comfortable immediately. Small things can make a big difference at this stage. I was helping a CEO select a new PR firm. We visited a half dozen companies in Boston. The firm with the $400 light fixtures was quickly taken off the list, as was the firm where the owner was downright nasty to her own employees.

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COMPANY TASKS ASSIST DISCUSSIONS

The goal is to help the client make the right decision. The salesperson should be highly trained, must advocate what will work best, and should never push. Business to business: Before the meeting, the salesperson must learn everything he can about the buyers: their positions in the company, political clout, history with this type of product, preferences, and concerns. He must know what drove the client to seek this solution, how they've tried to solve the problem in the past, and what worked or didn't. He should know their budget and desired timing. Create modular presentations. Each customizable module should consist of 1 to 3 slides. Modules: A summary of the client's situation; an overview of the proposed solution; how it will help the client; how others have used it; what will happen after the client says "yes"; and why the company is qualified to provide the solution. Include testimonials. Business to consumer: Clients will be asking many questions about what will happen after they buy. The salesperson should help the clients think through their options, without pushing.

HOW TO SUPPORT THE INTENSE SCRUTINY BUYING PROCESS

229

CUSTOMER ACTIONS STUDIES PROPOSALS & PLANS

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COMPANY TASKS CREATE PROPOSAL & PLAN

The client has decided she likes your company, your basic approach, and can live with your proposed budget and timeline. Sometimes clients ask several firms to submit plans or proposals at this point. However, most often, the client chooses one vendor at this stage and asks for plans and/or a proposal. Some companies charge a minimal amount for these plans; some don't. Standard industry practices (and the amount of detail requested by the client) should dictate whether you charge for these plans or not. The client will receive your proposal or plans, and study them. She may ask you to make changes before she shows them to others. Once she is satisfied with them, she will discuss them with the other approvers. You will be invited to participate in one or more of these meetings, but not all of them. She will get back to you with new changes. Once you have made those changes, she might be ready to sign on the dotted line. If so, you would then skip the next stage (#5) and go directly to stage #6. Then again, she may need to make absolutely sure that she is making the right decision, and will proceed to the testing stage (#5).

Create a library of plan and proposal modules that you can customize for each client. Make them as straightforward as you can; unnecessary complication only adds more barriers to the sale. Don't weigh down your plans and proposals with pages of legalese. Plans and proposals should include a "who does what, when, and how" section, so there is no confusion about roles and responsibilities. The salesperson should continue to check back with the client, asking what she needs to proceed. He should send information she might find useful, including case studies. The salesperson should "get right on it" when the client comes back with a question or a request. The client should feel that she is very important to the salesperson, and his top priority. This is not the time to leave things hanging. The client can still decide to go back to the other potential vendors and resume the selection process with them. The client may have a lingering doubt that she hasn't yet articulated. The best salespeople sense that concern, and ask outright: "Is there anything else that concerns you at this point?"

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ROADMAP TO REVENUE

CUSTOMER ACTIONS TESTS IT

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COMPANY TASKS DEMOS & TRIALS

The client is almost ready to commit, but she still needs to experience what it will be like to work with you, and/or experience what it will be like to be the owner and user of whatever you are providing for her. What she wants to do at this stage will depend on what you sell. Here are some examples: Large custom software project. She will want to hire you to do a small, carefully defined pilot project before committing to a larger project. Custom yachts, vehicles, houses, buildings: She will want to sail, drive, or spend time with what you have built before, talking to the current owners without you around. She will ask them many questions about what it was like to work with you, while experiencing what you have built for them. Retirement homes and other long-term care facilities: She will want to spend time in the facility, walking around and interviewing current residents and their families. At some point during the testing, if she doesn't find any "gotchas," she will decide she is comfortable moving to the next step. She will make an emotional commitment, even though there are many more issues still to be resolved. However, she will certainly be "over the hump" in her buying process.

The salesperson should arrange testing. Large custom software project: The client should be able to choose from a menu of "small project" services. It should be easy to get the project started and completed--to the client's satisfaction--on time and on budget. Custom yachts, vehicles, houses, buildings: The salesperson will arrange for the prospective client to experience existing yachts, vehicles, houses, or buildings. Maintain a list of owners who will be willing to play host to a prospective client. Obviously, if you don't treat your clients well while working for them, this won't be easy. If you never go out of your way to make sure they're happy, many sales will end at this stage. Retirement homes and other long-term care facilities: If you're hiding something, the client will sense it. There will be telltale signs, no matter how clever you are about hiding them. There is no substitute for doing the right thing all the time. Experts should be available to answer the deeply technical and customerspecific questions. After the trial, the salesperson should summarize the results in a report that the champion can pass on to other influencers.

HOW TO SUPPORT THE INTENSE SCRUTINY BUYING PROCESS

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CUSTOMER ACTIONS SIGNS CONTRACT, PAYS PORTION OR FULL PRICE

The client has decided. Business to business The client will want a plain-language contract that clearly spells out what is being delivered, what the vendor will do, what the client is expected to do, any limits on the product or service, and what will happen when something goes wrong. The client will expect the contract to clearly state what the company will deliver and when, the amount of each payment and the due dates for those payments. The fee should include penalties for non-delivery or non-payment. Any starting fee should be clearly stated. Business to consumer There may be financing involved, and outside vendors. Since the customer only makes this type of purchase a few times in her lifetime, she will want the seller to explain what will happen with these vendors. The client is buying a set of promises she expects you to keep. The client will expect the contract to clearly state what the company will deliver and when, the amount of each payment and the due dates for those payments. It should include penalties for non-delivery or nonpayment. Any starting fee should be clearly stated.

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COMPANY TASKS GUIDE THE CLIENT THROUGH THE CONTRACT PROCESS

The contract should be semi-custom and modular, so the salesperson can quickly create a contract appropriate for each client. Create a checklist that spells out everything that must be done to complete the sale, including things that the client, you, and any other vendors will do. The salesperson and the client should discuss these steps, before the client signs the contract. The client will read through the contract and ask questions; the salesperson must be able to answer them. Keep the momentum and energy high, even if the sale is "almost complete." The client can still back out at this point. The salesperson must be very patient at this stage. It's tempting to rush the client because he can "smell the commission." But it is far more important to manage the client's expectations through this process, so there is no disappointment later on. In B2B situations, the implementation team takes over after the contract is signed. They should be ready to jump in. The salesperson should stay involved after the contract is signed. This is often done poorly. Be the company that does it well.

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ROADMAP TO REVENUE

CUSTOMER ACTIONS WORK BEGINS; CLIENT CONTINUES TO EVALUATE

Business to business The contract is signed. The client has been promised a smooth implementation process by the salesperson, and has read through the implementation checklist. Anything that doesn't match those promises or that checklist will be a big red flag to the client. This is more serious than one would assume. At this stage, the client can still decide to pull out of the deal, even if there is some kind of financial penalty involved. Further, even after the product or service is implemented, competitive salespeople are going to continue to pitch the client, and if you aren't keeping your promises, that client will become more and more interested in the competitive options. This is especially true if your solution didn't solve all of the client's problems or solve them as elegantly or costefficiently as you promised. Business to consumer As with the B2B client, the B2C client will be paying attention to how you treat her after the sale. After she has signed the contract, how easy is it to get help? How helpful are the people she talks to? Does she get a thank you from the salesperson? Is she offered any special incentives to come back to you for supplies and service? Does she feel you are working as hard to satisfy her as you were when you were selling to her?

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COMPANY TASKS KEEP THE CLIENT HAPPY, LEARN, AND SELL MORE

Never forget that you are still selling (in fact, always selling), even after they sign. Your competitors never stop trying to steal clients from you. Stay in touch. The B2B salesperson should call 2 weeks, 2 months, then 4 months after the contract is signed. The client will let the salesperson know if there is a problem, or may reveal an opportunity for another sale. Put the client on a low-key email program, filled with tips, and always including contact information. Once the client is up and running successfully, the marketing people should interview the client about her buying process, and also see if she'd be willing to provide a testimonial (this should not be asked until the interview is finished). Work hard on your client service. It is actually as influential--or more influential--than your salespeople. Check with your clients to make sure they're happy. Monitor social sites to quickly discover any disgruntled clients. If you get a reputation for "great products but terrible service," your sales will suffer significantly. Obviously, the more complex the buying process, the more you need a Customer Relationship Management system to keep track of every interaction--before the sale, during the sale, and after the sale. The system you choose should be crossdepartmental, so it can record each type of interaction involving marketing, sales, or service.

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