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Missed Sales Opportunities
Could you be ignoring changes in buyer behavior and accidently creating missed sales opportunities? What if you could capture those missed sales opportunities that are hiding in plain view?
Today’s special guest, Liz Harr, co-author of Inside the Buyer’s Brain offers some tips on how to do exactly that.
What You’ll Discover About Missed Sales Opportunities (highlights & transcript):
* Common missed sales opportunities signals [03:10]
* The top overlooked buyer criteria that results in missed sales opportunities [05:40]
* How understanding the stages of the buyer’s journey helps avoid missed sales opportunities [07:30]
* Two important research finds on how buyer behavior has changed [11:01]
* How to prove your expertise and side-step missed sales opportunities [14:53]
* And much MORE.
Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:00.12] Could you be ignoring changes in buyer behavior and creating missed sales opportunities? What if you could tap those missed sales opportunities that are hiding in plain view? My next guest is the author of Inside the Buyer’s Brain and offers some tips on how to do that.
Announcer: [00:00:18.63] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. Helping you see business issues hiding in plain view that matter to your bottom line.
Hanna: [00:00:29.70] Welcome to Business Confidential Now. I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner and today’s guest is Liz Harr. She’s an accomplished entrepreneur and executive specializing in brand management and growth strategies for professional services firms. A partner at Hinge, she leads Hinge’s business development team helping businesses solve critical marketing and brand related challenges.
[00:00:55.11] Liz has also coauthored several books, including the one that I mentioned at the top of the show, Inside the Buyer’s Brain. And I love that title. So I was let’s get inside there. Welcome to Business Confidential Now, Liz.
Liz Harr: [00:01:08.91] Thank you so much, Hanna. I am delighted to be here.
WHY IDENTIFYING MISSED SALES OPPORTUNITIES REQUIRES GETTING INSIDE THE BUYER’S BRAIN
Hanna: [00:01:12.42] Well, tell me about this book, why this book and especially why this title, Inside the Buyer’s Brain? It sounds like brain surgery.
Liz: [00:01:20.46] I know. I mean, just like you said, I too love the title because it could not be more apropos to what is going on in the world of companies that are trying to clamor for new business and compete for new business and their buyers or their prospective clients and the way they behave and what gets them to write checks and choose us.
[00:01:47.43] I’ve been working in professional services for a couple of decades now and one of the things that I consistently see and a lot of my peers consistently see is that, you know, companies think they’re doing a really good job and they really convince themselves that they know their clients inside and out, because after all, they’ve been working with them forever.
[00:02:10.50] And then there comes a day when they say, you know, I can’t figure out what’s going on. I mean, we were growing at a pretty good clip, but now we’re kind of losing to the competition and the leads that are coming to us, they’re not really the right leads and we just can’t really figure it out. We can’t get a pulse on it.
[00:02:27.87] Well, what’s going on is they’ve become out of tune, if you will, with how their audience, their buyers really think and really behave and really make decisions. So we started this study actually several years ago, and we’re now in the third edition of it. And just every year we do some research that studies the behavior of the buyer landscape and how they’re making decisions. And every year that we do it, we see increasing gap in how companies think their buyers are behaving and how the buyers are actually making decisions.
COMMON MISSED SALES OPPORTUNITIES SIGNALS
Hanna: [00:03:10.08] That’s fascinating. How does a seller even know they have missed sales opportunities? Is it these leads that just don’t seem to land on all fours or is there something else going on?
Liz: [00:03:22.47] Well, that is a great question. And in a way, that’s the million dollar question or whatever your contracts are worth, right? Because that is so there are a couple of signals.
[00:03:33.15] One, it could be like you just mentioned, that kind of leads that are coming in and you’re – you’re noticing that they’re not quite the right ones. In other cases, your win rate is declining and you’re losing to the competition.
[00:03:46.62] But there’s another one that I think is kind of unexpected. And it’s when you find yourself increasingly competing on price rather than some other more important attribute of your company. None of us want to be in that circumstance where we’re competing on price alone. And so that when you’re when you start competing on price and you are losing because you’re more expensive, what that’s a signal of is you’re being viewed as a commodity.
[00:04:19.86] And let’s be honest, the landscape is really, really crowded right now. The barriers to entry and set up a firm are nothing now like what it used to be. It used to be pretty hard to start a company. And now it’s pretty easy to show up as a competitor. And people don’t find out until it’s too late that you can’t really do what you promised you can do. So that contributes to a very crowded marketplace.
[00:04:48.12] And when you find yourself losing on price, competing on price, that’s another signal that you are out of alignment and that you just are sort of seen as a jack of all trades, as opposed to the specialists that clients are actually looking for.
Hanna: [00:05:06.12] Yeah, that’s interesting, because when it does become commoditized and nothing but a game between price, that’s a race to the bottom.
Liz: [00:05:14.67] Oh, it really is. And it’s such an unenviable position. I mean, no, no one – we all have so much more to offer in our minds. Right. And it’s sort of an insult when we find ourselves competing on price. And I will say that price is still important. It’s not to say that buyers don’t care about price. They do. But it is not the top criteria they’re using when they’re selecting firms.
THE TOP OVERLOOKED BUYER CRITERIA THAT RESULTS IN MISSED SALES OPPORTUNITIES
Hanna: [00:05:40.98] Well, let’s talk about those top criteria. What can sellers do to close the gap that you’ve identified in the buyer’s mind? What are the criteria they should be zeroing in on?
Liz: [00:05:55.89] The number one criteria is expertise. And we actually saw that increase by over 50 percent between our most recent setting. The last time we did it was about a couple of years’ gap. Expertise trumps everything else, even relationship, even price. So expertise is the thing that seals the deal. And there are – and we can talk about it later. Ways to prove your expertise.
[00:06:25.24] But to answer your question, what can you do to close the gap is just first and foremost, conduct your own research. Have – have an independent, unbiased party that knows what they’re doing and knows your audience, have them conduct research with your audience and have structured interviews to find out how your audience is making decisions and where expertise fits in that and how are they defining expertise.
[00:06:54.55] But research can also help you understand what’s the thing that’s keeping my audience up at night and what language are they using to describe it. Just knowing these things can be so important as you are making sure that your own marketing and business develop mirrors the way your audience think and behave. So above all things, research is what closes the gap and helps you understand the specific criteria your own clients are using as they’re as – they’re making decisions.
HOW UNDERSTANDING THE STAGES OF THE BUYER’S JOURNEY HELPS AVOID MISSED SALES OPPORTUNITIES
Hanna: [00:07:30.12] Well, let’s talk about how they make decisions. Why is it so important to keep the buyer’s journey in mind? What does that actually mean?
Liz: [00:07:38.68] Yeah, you know, the – you know, there’s so many buzzwords and lingo out there, and I tried to always stay away from that because then what does it actually mean? But buyer journey is one that I think actually means what it implies, what – what it seems like it means.
[00:07:57.40] And that is what is the journey that your prospective clients take at the various stages of making a decision? Because they do different things, they prioritize different things. They care about different things. And this actually, to go back to one of your first questions, this is a big gap, a big misunderstanding.
[00:08:17.41] Most companies do not understand the different criteria buyers are using at their different stages. So let me just kind of break it down.
[00:08:26.53] The first thing that happens is the CEO that you’re trying to sell your services to or whoever your audience is, they wake up at four a.m. thinking about something. What is that something? How do they define that something? And what do they do when they finally get out of bed? There are a couple of things that they do to seek out an answer to the challenge that was keeping them up at night.
[00:08:50.52] And as they’re seeking out an answer, they’re kind of building their list. They’re building their list of companies that seem like they could potentially solve that problem. And that’s important to understand, because those are the things that help you get – get you on people’s radar.
[00:09:07.53] And then once that prospective client has built their initial list and let’s say they’ve come up with five or so companies, maybe 10, whatever the number is, then they’re going to do a series of things and they’re going to care about a series of things as they whittle down that list.
[00:09:26.43] And maybe they’re going to get it to three companies. So what are the criteria that your specific buyer uses as they’re whittling down that list?
[00:09:35.72] Now our research shows that at the beginning of the journey, they care about expertise in the sense of what’s your opinion? I’m trying to solve this problem. Let me see who has a really interesting opinion, an innovative way to solve this.
[00:09:53.07] Whereas when they’re whittling down their list, they’re then they’re thinking about, okay, I care about your opinion, but prove it. Prove it to me that you can actually solve this problem. So that’s where they start having an interest in things like case stories, or maybe they’ll download a white paper that you have.
[00:10:13.68] But at the beginning of the journey, they’re not ready to download a paper and give you an email. Absolutely not. So that’s what we mean by the buyer journey is the different steps and the different criteria that are prioritized from the beginning when they’re trying to build the list all the way to the end, where they’re going to finally and ultimately select somebody who can solve that problem.
[00:10:39.96] And I cannot say how important it is to know that journey and then ensure that all of the marketing you do, everything you’re writing about, everything you’re speaking about, where you go to network, all of that should mirror how your audience thinks and behave.
TWO IMPORTANT RESEARCH FINDINGS ON HOW BUYER BEHAVIOR HAS CHANGED
Hanna: [00:11:01.47] Earlier, you mentioned that the research that your firm has done about changes in buyer behavior has surface changes.
Liz: [00:11:12.66] Yes.
Hanna: [00:11:13.47] From one research study to – to the other. How has that went away? The buyer’s journey changed.
Liz: [00:11:20.52] It’s a little bit of a dose of medicine, actually. We’ve looked at some of the things that have changed. One shift we’ve seen is that it is getting harder and harder to be found as a provider, and it’s harder and harder to build a strong brand. And that is indicative of this hyper competitive environment.
[00:11:47.04] I mean, there’s so much noise out there. So you really have to climb mountains to be visible, not just be visible though, but be visible in a meaningful way so that when a buyer is out there and they’re doing their due diligence and they come up, come across 10 websites of companies that could potentially solve their problem. If you look like you are in the sea of sameness, as I always call it, you know, you say, hey, we have the best people and we’re passionate. Then you’re gone. You’re toast.
[00:12:21.87] They’re not they – you’re not communicating how you are differentiated. That doesn’t prove – your expertise has nothing to do with the criteria they’re using. So that’s a big shift in just the competitive landscape and how difficult it really is to be seen as an authentic expert.
[00:12:42.39] Another shift we’ve seen is in the extent to which referrals play in the overall decision making process. We all have received clients from referrals. Right. And that’s always going to be alive and well in the world of B2B and professional services. It’s always going to happen. Now, the reality is, is that most of the referrals who get referred to you, you never hear from them.
[00:13:12.00] And here’s the shocking shift that we’ve seen. We started studying the impact on referrals in 2013. And when we talk to buyers and we studied how often they would actually or the likelihood that they would actually connect with somebody that they got referred to, it was about 50 percent. So half the time you were getting ruled out by someone you got referred to before they would even pick up the phone and call you and just say, hey, so-and-so referred me to you. Love to have a chat. 50 percent. That alone is pretty bad.
[00:13:48.62] Now, would you believe that number is nine out of 10?
Liz: So from five, I know. Five out of ten to nine out of 10. And I think it has a little bit to do with what I just talked about this. It’s so competitive out there and it’s harder and harder to really authentically show up as an expert and get your messaging aligned. And that’s why the research is so important.
[00:14:17.57] The firms that research their target audience and know how these folks are living, thinking, breathing, they put that in their messaging. So when a referral gets to your website, it’s like, oh, these are the people I’ve been looking for. This is the answer to my problem.
Liz: [00:14:34.88] So referrals, that shift is difficult for those of us who have long convinced ourselves that we’re always going to get most of our business through referrals. If you’re getting most of your business through referrals, you’re leaving a lot of business on the table,
Hanna: [00:14:50.69] Which is kind of scary.
Liz: [00:14:52.28] Very scary.
HOW TO PROVE YOUR EXPERTISE AND SIDE-STEP MISSED SALES OPPORTUNITIES
Hanna: [00:14:53.93] Yeah. Well, let’s come back to this concept of expertise. You mentioned that earlier. That it’s become more and more difficult to demonstrate expertise. What suggestions do you have or tips for things that do rise above the noise?
Liz: [00:15:13.43] Yeah. You know, this is – this is the thing I could talk for days and days about because it’s so important. And this is this is where so many firms go astray. So, you know, on the one hand, it’s pretty intuitive when you think about it, okay, what’s going to demonstrate my expertise?
[00:15:30.68] Well, maybe I’ll put some articles and blogs out there. Maybe I’ll host some webinars. Maybe I’ll have a podcast. And it’s pretty easy to come up with the what.
[00:15:42.59] But it’s more difficult to come up with the what should I talk about? What should the topics be? And this is where research can be really instrumental.
[00:15:53.39] Because if you have an understanding of what your audience actually cares about and you think about the intersection of what is – my what does my audience care about and what’s important to my firm as I’m growing in scale and what kind of services that intersection is a really good indication of what you should be writing about, what you should be speaking about.
[00:16:15.68] And when you adhere to that kind of model, then all of a sudden your blogs and when you get published in external resources and when you’re podcasting and when you’re doing webinars and when you’re doing white papers, all of a sudden it’s on the right topics.
[00:16:31.40] So the point I’m making is when you’re demonstrating your expertise, it’s not enough just to have the check the box kind of list of things to do. And you’re blogging and you’re doing all that. That’s not enough. It has to also be on the things your audience cares about.
[00:16:48.56] And by the way, you have to write about it in a differentiated way, in a way that when your audience does read it to your point, Hanna, it does feel new. It feels like I haven’t – I haven’t read that before, that I’m going to give these guys a call or I’m going to download this guide, or, you know what? I am going to give these guys my email because I want to hear more from them.
[00:17:11.33] That’s how you prove your expertise and rise above the noise. And I’ll just say one other thing. A lot of times we talk to companies and they’ll say, Hinge, what gives? We’ve been reading your stuff for years. You tell us to blog, you tell us to put keywords in it. You tell us to do webinars. We’re doing all that stuff where we’re doing it on the things our audience cares about.
[00:17:36.23] Nothing’s happening. What’s going on? And the point we try to make there is having your thought leadership on your website and having you say that you’re the expert is only half of the game. The other half is having other people sing your praises. I mean, that’s why referrals work.
[00:18:01.61] So the idea with thought leadership is don’t just have it on your website, don’t just have a blog on your website, get published in outside publications where your audience is reading. Get tapped as a speaker. Get tapped as a guest in a webinar or a podcast. That way others are saying, hey, you know what? I’m inviting this person into my circle of experts. I’m convinced enough. And so should you be.
[00:18:29.51] That is a piece that companies don’t quite have a pulse on. And I think there’s not enough prioritization of that. You know, it’s kind of like the – the PR of the 2020s. Don’t put a press release out and say you’re the expert, but wow, if you have somebody else inviting you to speak or putting you on stage or – or publishing your article – that speaks volumes. And that is the other part of the equation to demonstrating your expertise.
TIPS FOR B2C BUSINESSES
Hanna: [00:19:01.13] Very helpful. Now, I understand that your research is focused on professional services firm, but I’m wondering to what extent you feel these tips are transferable to other types of businesses, organizations that maybe sell goods instead of professional services. What do you think?
Liz: [00:19:20.35] Yeah. You know, it’s a good question. I mean, so a lot of firms and professional services do have a – a good, if you will, they’ll have a software or some kind of widget that they sell with their services. And I think in a pure B2C sort of model, maybe a retail setting, it is a little bit different. And in those instances, companies can afford to prioritize a little bit more of the shiny rocks, if you will. And it isn’t always about expertise, but anytime, you know, outside of professional services, any B2B, B2G environment, any time you are in the professional sphere and you are selling to other professional decision makers, expertise will – trumps everything else.
Hanna: [00:20:13.73] Good to know, because nobody really enjoys missed sales opportunities, especially when they’re just like hiding in plain view. That’s so annoying.
HOW AN A-TEAM CREATED LOTS OF MISSED SALES OPPORTUNITIES
Liz: [00:20:23.66] Oh, my gosh. It is so annoying. And I have so many stories about that. I mean, your statement reminds me of this one client we worked with, and they were – they were experiencing missed sales opportunities.
[00:20:39.23] And when we started working with them, we said, you know, what was the reason you win? And they said, well, it’s our message that we are an A-team, an A-team only kind of firm. We don’t have junior level people working with us. It’s when you work with us, it’s all A-team. Well, when we did research and we talked to their audience, you’ll never guess what we found.
[00:21:05.99] We found that they were actually losing deals because of their messaging, that they’re the A-team and A-team only. And we had you know, we had people saying, well, I don’t want to pay A-team rates for C-team tasks. I’d rather go with a larger company that does have a C-team and then it’s blended and I’m not getting overcharged.
[00:21:27.26] And so the point is, is that when you don’t understand your audience, when you don’t understand what’s inside their brain and how they’re making decisions, you absolutely are having missed opportunities because you are not aligned and not in tune with how they’re making decisions.
Hanna: [00:21:48.08] Wow. That’s a great example. I really enjoyed that one. So.
[00:21:53.67] If you’re listening and you’d like to contact Liz and learn more about her and her firm and especially this fascinating research, you can find that information in the show notes at BusinessConfidentialRadio.com.
[00:22:06.48] And if you found today’s program helpful, be sure to tell a friend and leave a positive review on your podcast app or at lovethepodcast.com/Business Confidential.
[00:22:19.41] You have been listening to Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. And I hope you have a great day and an even better tomorrow.
Guest: Liz Harr
Elizabeth Harr is an accomplished entrepreneur and executive specializing in brand management and growth strategies for professional services firms. A partner at Hinge, she leads Hinge’s business development team, helping businesses solve critical marketing and brand-related challenges. Prior to joining Hinge, Elizabeth co-founded a Microsoft solutions provider company and grew it into a thriving organization that became known for its expertise in Microsoft customer relationship management.
Elizabeth has co-authored several books and reports published by the Hinge Research Institute, including The Visible Expert®, Inside the Buyers Brain, The Social Media Guide for Professional Services, How Buyers Buy and Online Marketing for Professional Services and regularly contributes to Hinge’s company blog and numerous professional services publications. She was a featured speaker at Processia’s DRIVE 2021 event, where she also led a session on the central tenets of professional services marketing, how to promote expertise, and cultivating a marketing culture.
She has a Master’s degree in International Economics from Columbia University in New York and a B.A. from University of Missouri – Columbia.
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