Episode 5: De-risk the purchase decision | The four "D's" of better B2C sales performance

Matt Dixon, Ted McKenna, Tom Shepherd

April 27, 2021

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This material originally appeared as part of our Learning Series podcast. Listen to the original here.

Welcome to the final episode in our five-part learning series! In this series, we’re diving deeper into some of the research that went into our recent HBR article, 4 behaviors that boost inbound sales. In today’s episode, we're gonna be talking about the fourth behavior we discovered in our study on strategies for B2C sales: De-risk the purchase decision.

Q&A: Dig into objections 

Before we really get started, let’s answer some listener questions regarding the previous episode. One listener, amusingly, told us that they themselves have been guilty of saying “I need to think about it” in order to get off a sales call where they don’t want to buy. This listener, however, went on to ask a very interesting question: When in the call does the objection tend to happen?

This is fascinating, because we're looking at compressed sales in these calls. Inbound sales often happen in the span of minutes, and those objections don’t always happen at the end as you might expect. And when you look at those conversations, they aren't always the type of objections that you always expect, either. You might expect to hear, “I want this item cheaper.” Instead, you may be more likely to hear something a little more opaque like, “I found this other thing online, and it’s cheaper than your product.” There’s a lot of objections like that you can hear early or in the middle of a call. 

Of course, towards the end of the call, you get more of the types of objections that signal the customer wants to put off the decision. So when you get to the high performer behavior, you see a lot more leaning into objections throughout the call, not just at the end. They're often trying to surface that hesitancy early on. If you're just waiting till the end of the conversation, you've probably lost out on an opportunity earlier on. 

Behavior 4: De-risk the purchase decision 

Now, this last episode, we're going to be talking about the fourth and final behavior we found in this study. We found that high performers use a unique approach to drive the sale: They de-risk the purchase decision. They work to make it feel like a good idea for the customer to buy now, not later. Don’t think about it, don’t call back next week or tomorrow, but buy now—before you hang up the phone. 

In order to do this, they use an interesting combination of kind of scarcity and urgency. On the scarcity side, we saw high performers saying things like, “You know, I just want to let you know that this is the rate I can quote you today. But if you call back tomorrow, our rates may change.” On the urgency side, we saw high performers using articulations of service guarantees, money-back guarantees, or the ability to cancel later. So that might sound like, “Just so you know, you have plenty of time to think about it. If you decide that this isn't the right package for you, you can call back within 30 days to cancel.”

Either way, these top performers are making it okay to purchase now. It’s the final act in the play, they’re putting their cards down, and the seller is lowering the stakes even further. 

Why does de-risking the purchase decision work?

Even with the other behaviors accomplished, this one really is a cut above. It makes it okay for the customer to say, “You know what? Let's go ahead and do this.” We’ve studied B2B sales and B2C sales at length, and in those worlds, you're used to thinking about the sales being a primary function of differentiation and about the pitch. Everyone talks about the pitch. But when you look at these conversations, the rebuttals actually seem to matter far more than the pitch. In fact, in these types of situations, the customer probably saw a fair amount of your positioning and messaging on the website already, which may have may or may not have caused the call. So they know the pitch. 

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When you look at these conversations, the rebuttals actually seem to matter far more than the pitch.

When you look at these types of situations, the way in which top performers handle objections and hesitancy, and how it impacts close rates, it makes a big difference. When you look at the way they respond to those objections via rebuttals, inside of Tethr, that makes a huge difference in terms of that notion of buying now, which is different than buying ever. Ultimately you want to get the customer’s confidence to the point where they're now, at the end of the call, ready to pull the trigger. The caller picked up the phone to at least inquire about information, and now you've now earned the right to get to the point where if not for the safety net, they're probably ready to go. And so you provide that safety net, and that makes a really big difference when it comes to booking that purchase. 

Different approaches and situations for de-risking

Now, how you articulate the “de-risk” differs a little bit in terms of the type of individual that you have on the call. But fundamentally, it’s very similar to what we discussed in the last episode. Just because you haven’t heard an objection outright doesn’t mean it isn’t there. In this instance, it’s more like if you haven't provided some degree of safety net one way or another, you’re probably missing an opportunity. Prescription applies here as well: “Now, if I were you, I would buy now, and lock in that rate.” This may differ for true buyers, who have more urgency, but the principle applies. 

Another important note here: You're not de-risking as a way to bully the caller into a regrettable purchase. Instead, you're at a point in the call where you’ve earned the right to do that. The caller is feeling good, and it's just about timing: Can you get it done now, or later? The customer has a lot of options, so time is of the essence. A 30-day cancellation window can make a big difference for the uncertain shopper, but only if they’re so far on your side of the fence that they’re unlikely to back out during that time. High performers know when that's an unlikely occurrence, which is why they're willing to offer that as a last resort, if necessary, in order to get the caller to make that purchase decision. 

Why do these four behaviors matter?

In the course of this series, we’ve talked about four behaviors for boosting inbound sales. In the first episode, where we summarized why we did this research, we talked about the lift that we can see in conversion rate when these practices are implemented. The difference is night and day. If we go from none of the behaviors, we've got about a 5% chance of closing that deal. If we go to all four of the behaviors being used, that's about a 70-75% conversion rate. Now, we don't have to go from worst to first. But if we can even get a few of those behaviors demonstrated in a call, we significantly improve our chances of closing a deal.

So, you can go from an average close rate of 25%, up to an upwards of a 45-55% successful close when you start doing the majority of these things. And if I'm a sales leader, I'm able to use this information to coach on an individual basis. Some people are going to be more inclined to prescribe and less inclined to actively engage and lean into objections. So, as a sales leader, I want to isolate which ones my agent is good at, and which ones they don’t instinctually do, and then just give them the right type of coaching. And that makes a huge difference. 

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How do we know these four sales behaviors work?

As with any sales training, there's always been this question: Did it work? Even if you see positive results, in the back end, there are still these questions: Is that positive purchase decision or uptick in conversions because we changed the pricing of the product? Or because one of our big competitors went out of business? Is that because we invested in a new CRM system? 

This is where the power of platforms like Tethr come in, where we can actually use machine learning, natural language processing, automated speech, recognition, and machine learning to listen to 100% of our sales interactions. Now, with this platform, we can identify specifically which reps are using which of those four techniques, and to what effect. It allows us to be really targeted, and to draw a very straight line from coaching and training to behavioral change. They happened or they didn't happen, and here's the outcome that we saw in the end: purchase decision or no purchase decision. It’s a brave new world of sales enablement. 

It’s a brave new world of sales enablement.

The promise of machine-learning powered conversation analytics

This, really, brings us to the promise of machine-learning technology, at least as it applies to conversation analytics. So often, this technology is used for frontline sales or customer service rep performance improvement use cases. But what we find is that leading organizations are using technologies like Tethr not just to improve how they sell, but actually to improve what they sell. They’re improving their product and improving their value proposition. These types of interactions and insights can be hugely valuable for the marketing team, too, for all sorts of reasons: pricing, messaging, product launch, offer, uptake, and so forth. 

When it gets into the product realm, what becomes really interesting is using the technology as a way to ascertain the sentiment of the customer or the potential buyer. For instance, in a sales setting with an existing customer where you're looking to cross-sell and upsell, and they've had some exposure to a certain set of products, you can use that interaction as a way to glean information about your product. How easy or how difficult was the experience for them? How do they feel about that set of products? And what does that potentially tell me in terms of the opportunity for upsell or cross-sell in those situations? 

A brave new world

In the situation above, we can use the Tethr Effort Index as a way to discover if you had surveyed that customer, would they say they were satisfied with the product? We can learn what they might have said. A low TEI score indicates a high effort situation. You can surmise, then, there's something broken with the experience they're having with that product. That tells me a whole bunch about both product fixes and how they might react to new potential products. There’s a lot we can learn here, you really start to move beyond the single purchase decision, and expand all the ways in which customers interact with us across the journey. It's a huge body of evidence that, as a leader, gives you a lot of confidence when you make decisions. Whether that’s moving forward on a specific rep skill that you want to coach on, a decision around product value proposition, a brand message, or pricing. It’s a brave new world. 

With that, we’ve come to the end of this Learning Series. Thanks so much for joining us for this series, and if you’d like to learn more, feel free to check out the original article. If you’d like to learn more about the research or check out some specific use cases as well, we’d love to show you, so just head over to get in touch. Thank you all again so much for joining us.

This material originally appeared as part of our Learning Series podcast. Listen to the original here.

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