The Challengeless Sale

The other day I went into a store to buy some socks.

No transformational experience was required. The clerk didn’t need to paint a vision of a brighter future in which my feet and shoes were separated by soft, cushiony fabric. I knew I needed socks. The store had them. A few minutes later, they were mine.

Not every purchase requires transformation

The prosaic nature of this transaction got me thinking.

The Challenger Sale, and many other methodologies, are based on disrupting the way customers do things today, and then painting them a vision of a better way. Joseph Campbell’s archetypal story structure of the Hero’s Journey has melded into the buyer’s journey.

Not every purchase needs to be an epic hero’s journey. And in fact, you can exhaust and frustrate your customer by trying to make it one. Not everyone is looking for a transformational experience at every purchase.

Do you need to create a buyer, or do you already have one?

Every truism of selling can, and perhaps should be re-examined in this harsh and ordinary light. For example, the idea that people buy solutions to problems rather than products. The classic statement that, “people buy quarter inch holes rather than quarter inch drill bits” perfectly encapsulates an idea that is both indisputably true and often misleading.

Yes, people buy drill bits because they want holes. But by the time you contact them, they may very well already know that the way they’ll get the hole is by buying a drill. In that case, just meet them where they are and sell them one.

Challenger, as well as the ancestor and descendent sales methodologies are meant to start people on a buyer’s journey – a journey on which the salesperson can ideally fill the role of Yoda as a wise guide. The salesperson initiates and strives to control that buyer’s journey. This provocation is designed to make customers out of people who were not already in the market. In fact, the full title of Mike Bosworth’s seminal Solution Selling book was Solution Selling: Creating buyers in difficult markets. Creating buyers! Starting a journey for people who were not already on one. Those methodologies are specifically designed for that very legitimate purpose.

Make things easy for your customers

But many buyers are already on a journey, or at least a day trip, that was underway before you ever got there. Plenty of sales, especially of the lower-ticket or “land and expand” variety can be made by falling in step with a journey that’s already nearing its end.

Viewed through this lens, Product-Led Growth (PLG) can be viewed as making it easy for people to try on your socks. Provocation and an invitation to deep transformation aren’t required. You can motivate people to try with benefits that might be just incremental, because you’ve lowered the barrier to trial as close as possible to zero. If there is a good product market fit, people will like your socks (or SaaS software) and buy more.

I’m not saying there isn’t a buyer’s journey. I’m saying that some journeys are very short. Others are long, but you only get to join the party towards the end. The buyer’s journey literally IS that buyer’s journey – not yours. Buyers often tread the paths they tread, not the ones we wish for them. They might be on an epic quest, but sometimes your role is just that of the tavern keeper, who sells them a beer along the way.

So don’t slow down a sale by insisting the buyer walk your path. Don’t make them back up to discussing quarter inch holes when they are all ready to buy a quarter inch drill bit.

Sometimes buyers already know what they want. Just sell them the socks!

PS: Yes, there is a lot more to say about how to encourage people to buy YOUR socks! More on that in future writings.