Qualifying Buying Power!
By: Lorna Riley

Buying power. We all have it. Love to use it. It's what credit cards, ATMs, and now the internet has created. We love that rush of decision-making power--"Yes!" People love to buy, but just don't want to be "sold." It's our job then, to qualify the buying power in others, and help them to make a well-informed, enthusiastic buying decision.

Buying power is that force which influences the purchase of goods or services. It can show up in the form of "input" from many sources in the organization, or a single "economic" power--the one who signs the checks. Qualifying means to identify qualities to determine the "fit" between what you have and what others need. So, imagine going into a sale having qualified who has buying power, what role they play, and how much buying power they have. . .we could reduce the sales call cycle dramatically and sell more in less time.

Buying power can be found just about anywhere in an organization--from the executive board room to the secretarial pool. Because companies have moved to lean and mean, purchases made by single entities are increasingly rare. Companies are more careful where they give buying power, how much power is given, and spread the responsibility for decisions over many, including the mysterious "special committee."

People with corporate buying power influence the outcome of the sale so it's important to know who all the influencers are before going in for a formal presentation. Even when corporate buying power has been invested in an entire committee, there may be a subset, or one person on the committee whose influence dominates the entire process.

Identifying who holds what level of buying power is an important, obvious early step in the sales process. The sales rep must ask who plays what role in order to understand the internal buying process.

Unfortunately, asking to meet all the players is a step too often ignored, even by sales pros. If we ask, "Who makes the final decision regarding . . .," even the those who should know to probe further may take the response, "I am," at face value and leave it at that. Then, somewhere down the line it's uncovered that this is a person whose decision-making role is merely to "screen out," but not buy.

Too often salespeople don't grasp the fact that qualifying a buyer's decision-making role before a sale presentation is a two-step process. First, we have to qualify whether the prospect has interest in our product. Secondly, we also have to qualify our prospect's ability to place an order. If you're meeting with someone who doesn't ultimately have the ability to release funds, you're prolonging the sales cycle and therefore wasting everyone's time.

Sales success means compressing time--getting rid of the time wasters and filling the day with high pay-off activities. Ask any top producer and they will tell you--the more time you spend face to face or phone to phone with the one who can sign the check, the more you will sell in less time.

Qualifying buying power can be done before the sales representative ever steps foot in the prospect's building. During initial contact, the sales rep should be probing the prospect's status in the process. Ask questions to establish whether or not this is a person with buying power, and what kind of buying power. If you simply state, "I need your help in discovering the ropes here," you'd be amazed at how eager people are to move into their "help" mode and coach you on policy and procedure. Ask: "What role do you play in the process?" "Who are the key players we should include in our discussions?" "How are the decisions made in your organization?" "What's the best way to get everyone together for the presentation?" Following up with, "Thanks for putting this together. You've been a terrific help," shows your gratitude and helps build a strong, favorable relationship.

A second source of information for qualifying is to conduct independent research on the company. Talk to people in your own company and outside who may have had past experience with the prospect's company. Check out the book, "Buyers Influential," at your local library. Ask the administrative staff for their help in directing you to the right sources.

If you want to maximize your selling time and work smarter not harder, take the time to qualify, qualify, qualify. Ask the questions, identify buying powers, name roles and responsibilities, and you'll be setting the stage for sales success!

- Copyright 2003 by Lorna Riley. All rights reserved.

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