Increase Sales by Managing the Buying Evaluation Plan
We have been writing a series of articles about helping buyers have the Best Buying Experience. Our approach emphasizes using a consultative approach when working with buyers and buying organizations. A critical success factor to increase sales and win more opportunities is the use of Buying Evaluation Plans.
What is a Buying Evaluation Plan? (See sample below)
An agreed upon Project Plan between a seller and a buying organization that:
- Contains items, activities, and discussions required for a buying organization to arrive at a yes or no decision about purchasing goods or services from the seller.
- Has suggested dates for each important activity to be completed.
- Predicts the date when a final decision to purchase or not is to be made.
- Contains responsible parties that are required to execute an activity in the project/evaluation plan.
- Contains Go/No Go points during the plan where the seller and buying organization STOP, and determine if they should continue in the execution of the plan.
- If a No/Go is determined by either party, then a discussion or series of discussions should be initiated to address the No Go. If it is finally decided to be a No Go, the evaluation stops.
Why buying organizations will agree to and will use Buying Evaluation Plans
The evaluation plan is nothing more than a project plan to help buying organizations get through a decision process. We know executives tend to be good at negotiating and arranging terms & conditions of a sale. However, they are not usually adept at evaluating complicated products and services (such as software, hardware, professional services and other difficult to understand systems). This is where you can be viewed by buyers as knowledgeable in HOW to efficiently carry out an evaluation of your products and services. The advantages to the buyer are numerous:
- Puts them in control of evaluating products and services, and the sales people.
- They know they can stop any time they want to, and with Go/No Go points they are comfortable in moving through a plan.
- Go/No Go steps can be used to hold internal discussions about whether to continue evaluating with your company.
- It helps the buying organization understand and coordinate internal resources needed to evaluate sellers' offerings. Everybody is busy, so it helps them be more efficient.
- It can become an internal communication vehicle for the buyers. It can help to use a common language for the process of deciding yes or no.
How and why we can win with a Buying Evaluation Plan
- The use of an evaluation plan should be a mutually agreed upon plan between you and the prospect/buying organization. I have been very successful in pre-thinking an evaluation plan that makes logical business sense for both the seller and the buyers.
- Asking buyers what they need to know, (pricing, contracts, references, demonstrations, implementation steps, getting the right internal personnel involved), helps buyers feel you are consulting with them, not trying to manipulate them.
- A key tip to winning is listening very carefully to what buyers say when you ask the question, "What do you need to know to make a decision". Buyers and buying organizations will resist negotiating an evaluation plan with more than one vendor. If you find they already have an evaluation plan that is a red flag. You may not be Vendor A, (the favorite vendor).
- If you successfully negotiate an Evaluation Plan another fundamental success point is that you manage to the plan with the buying organization. If steps and dates are missed, (they usually always are), having a mutual plan allows you to check with buyers about what has changed. If you don’t manage each step, then you become mechanical and may miss early warning signs that competitors are involved and/or you are missing the buyers' needs or concerns.
- At each Go/No Go step you should look the buyers in the eye, listen, listen, listen, clarify, adjust, and sense if they are getting it, or if they are just going through the motions with you.
Over the years, I have been told by many buying organizations some of the important reasons why I received the project were:
- My organization was organized and was viewed as helpful in the evaluation.
- I was an expert in understanding what they needed to know and wasn't pushy in helping them through an evaluation process.
- Because I stopped at each step (Go/No Go) I continually re-confirmed to them that I was in sync with their needs.
Increasing sales by using an effective and mutually negotiated Buying Evaluation Plan not only helps close more opportunities, the usage saves you and your prospects valuable time by working to a plan. As the old saying goes, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. The reality is some are far shorter than others.