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Why a Greater Focus on the Buyer is Essential. With Robert Koehler [Episode 533]

Robert Koehler, Director of Consulting at TOPO, joins me on this episode.


Robert says one of the biggest challenges facing sales reps is trying to accelerate the sales cycle given the growth of buying committees and consensus buying. Robert suggests some tactics.

The buying process depends on the buyer, and they don’t usually formalize it. It is impossible for the salesperson to control it. Building credibility early on, and educating the buyer, will help the salesperson guide the buying process.

The salesperson needs to understand the commitments the customer has to make to get to the decision. Know the exit criteria of each stage of the process. Have a tailored customized sales process. A sequence is not the process.

Salespeople need to know what information the customer needs in order to make a decision. Robert shares an anecdote about missing information.

Instead of following a checklist, learn where the customer wants to be, and the gap to cross to get there. Understand the buyer and their business, and what challenges the buyer faces day-to-day.

Onboarding should be about understanding the customer. This will not be solely acquired through experience. Training is required. Examine your onboarding program. What percent of the information is in the buyer’s voice?

Surveys will not tell you about the customer. Talk to them in person. Personal meetings give the best opportunity for deep understanding, especially for milestone meetings.

Question what the data shows. Robert looks forward to AI for personalization of coaching and training.

AI can adopt repetitive tasks, to free time for reps to engage. People have uniquely human qualities, where a personal touch is becoming more important, as technologies come into play.

Be mindful and present with the customer. (Put your phone away!) Understand the business. Ask the right questions. Tie your solution to the buyer’s challenges. Put together a proposal that speaks to their business challenges.

There seems to be little or no correlation between the sales stack, and the productivity of the individual contributor. Close rates are dropping. The tech is not customer-focused. Robert says the solution is not seen on the horizon.

Andy cites Geoffrey Colvin: “The ability of a company to make a good decision with the least investment of time and effort possible, is viewed by the buyer as a strategic process.” Robert considers the importance of customer success in SaaS.