If you have been in sales for any length of time you have come across many different types of buyers. One of the most difficult buyer types is what I refer to as a “Post Turtle Buyer” as they really do not know what they are doing, do not understand what problem they are trying to solve and often can consume a tremendous amount of time, energy, and often produce little if any results if you do not understand how to work with them. If you have called on, or are calling on a post turtle buyer, this post is for you.
So what is a Post Turtle? As the picture implies it’s a turtle on top of a fence post. It did not get up there on its own abilities; someone had to have placed it there. It was elevated beyond its own abilities, function, and talent. It does not know what to do up there and when we see one we often wonder who was the idiot who placed it up there?
In a previous post I shared what it is like to call on Parrot Buyers, a buyer who basically is an information gatherer for others in power to make the buying decision. Parrot buyers know their job; they have a process and are very good at researching possible solutions. In the next post I shared how to work with this buyer type to produce golden purchase orders. The post turtle buyer is different, they really do not have any clue what they are doing, and they lack process, criteria, and do not clearly understand the problem they are trying to solve.
It was the early 1990’s and I was leading the sales for a company that produced mechanical loss prevention devices designed to reduce theft in music stores. They were/ are awesome product solutions and not too hard of a sale when you produced an ROI based on reduced in store theft dollars compared to the one time cost of our product. In addition, sales data supported that having your music out “live” on the showroom floor produced much greater sales than what some retailers felt was a better solution which entailed putting the product behind the counter or in glass cases that required a store associate to help you when you wanted to purchase them. A somewhat sizable record chain in the mid west had failed to commit to our products and it was driving my regional manager and independent sales rep crazy, so I flew in to meet the buyer and figure out how we could help him.
When I met Kevin he was young, very young actually to have such an important job. As I asked him questions to better understand his experience I found this was his first “real” job. His father owned the music chain. Kevin had tried to find other work since graduating college but only could secure part time jobs in bars and restaurants so his father hired him and put him in a job to “learn the business” . Why my team was so frustrated was;
- We qualified that he had a problem; his theft rate was between 7%-10% based on data their loss prevention manager shared with us.
- We know based on a history of helping many customers like this one we could cut their shrink ( product stolen) to under 2% ( you will always have some theft from in store personnel that our devices could not control)
- Our sales manager and representative did a great job of quantifying the problem and using our ROI tool.
- Our sales team did an excellent job of identifying power in the account; the loss prevention manager, the owner, and the merchandising manager who all had a strong influence in the final purchase
- Our team did an excellent job of positioning why our product that had the ability to store a loss prevention sicker tag inside our device so it could be reused and not accessible to consumers was a measurable value unlike our competitor’s product.
- We produced a list of happy other music stores with phone numbers ( we did not have email back then) , some of which were much bigger chains than than this one, raving fans if you will
So what did we do wrong?… and what are we going to do to win this order?
What our team failed to identify early on was we were dealing with a “post turtle buyer”. They were treating Kevin like he was a very skilled purchasing agent like we typically serve and in reality Kevin did not know what he was doing, and was so afraid of making a mistake he was paralyzed. He had gathered so much information that the more he gathered the more paralyzed he became.
Once I identified the real “why” we had not received the purchase order we developed a plan to win the order…solve their problem….and that became our focus.
So how do you sell a “Post Turtle Buyer”?
- teach them their job
- share industry best practices from others doing the same job
- find them an industry mentor, someone in the same position who knows what they are doing and can answer questions
- put a cost on doing nothing
- share cost of doing nothing, ideally by the week , with all power influencers
- position buyer for a win inside their organization to build confidence
- teach don’t tell
- serve don’t sell
- be open, no question is a dumb question if it stands between you and a PO
- build a buying road map for buyer to follow with timelines and expectations in each step
- find the buyer’s individual, personal pain , and solve it
- speak to that pain and how you will make it go away in each follow up call and tie it to the daily, weekly cost of doing nothing
Within 30 days we received a large purchase order from Kevin. We took Kevin under our wing and we basically trained him. What was Kevin’s individual pain? Like many children working for a dominant successful business leader/ business founder like their dad, what he really wanted and needed was his dad’s respect and the respect of others in the organization. Those were hard if not impossible shoes to fill. His concern of failing his dad was more paralyzing than the pile of manila folders on his desk with the product data he gathered. We positioned him, allowed him, and enabled him to win. We did not need the “credit” for solving the problem because our focus was winning the PO.
Do you have any Post Turtle Buyers?
What techniques have you used to get them off center and to buy?
Is a current sale you expected being held up under the shell of a Post Turtle Buyer?
One of the huge benefits of selling a post turtle buyer is it makes you and your organization better. If you really want to understand something try teaching it. When you must teach something you are forced to dive even deeper into the buying process, industry standard buying criteria and clearly understand why and how buyers buy. Once you can sell a post turtle buyer you can sell anyone.