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Bosworth's Ten Pains


Disciplines > Sales > Sales articles > Bosworth's Ten Pains


In his book 'Solution Selling', Michael Bosworth describes '10 faces of Buyer Pain' that illustrate the extent of problems that sales people may face.

1. Latent need

The buyer has a latent need that the sales person seeks to uncover and hence sell the solution into that need.

The buyer may not easily expose that need, perhaps because it is seen as a weakness or perhaps because they have already cast it as unsolvable and therefore not worth mentioning.

2. Price negotiation

The buyer is aware of the sales person's need to meet quota and uses this as a negotiating lever, for example by offering a big purchase just before the end of the quarter, but only if a significant discount is given.

3. Cold call 'window of opportunity'

Most sale people detest cold calling above all other activities. The telephone is a poor instrument for communication and it is easy to get it wrong and even easier for the buyer to hang up.

4. Organizational interdependence and access to power

Some buyers have little authority to make the actual purchase and depend on an internal person to make the purchase decision.

Sales people know this and put much effort into finding out who the real decisions-makers are and gaining access to them so they can sell to the real power brokers.

5. Product or service viewed as 'commodity'

Buyers may well believe that the seller's products or services are essentially commodities and that the same thing can be bought from a number of alternative suppliers.

Sales people thus have to present themselves, their companies and their products as differentiated in some way that makes them more desirable than competing offers.

6. Requests for proposal

Big companies may issue 'RFP's, where a requirement is sent out to a number of potential suppliers and a quote requested in terms of what will be delivered and how much it will cost.

Often the RFP is judged against criteria to create a short-list. Companies from this list may then be invited to make presentations which are then judged further by rational means. 

The sales person thus is unable to sell in the normal interactive manner.

7. Free education

Sales people can provide very useful information about advances in products and the state of the industry (including their competitors). Buyers know this and may invite sales presentations with no intention of purchase. Their goal is simply to get the sales person to provide them with a free education.

Sales people thus need to detect this situation as early as possible to avoid wasting time.

8. Buyer gets cold feet

Buyers can take the sales process right up to the wire and then get cold feet as they realize that they are taking risks in that the purchased item may not be sufficient for the task.

Sales people sometimes use this tendency to compete with one another, pointing out disadvantages of competing solutions. This is particularly common with larger suppliers and IBM famously sold equipment in the 1970s with the implied line 'Nobody ever got sacked for buying IBM'.

9. Booking appointments over the phone

One of the key goals of cold calling is to get an appointment to make a face-to-face sales presentation or otherwise move the sale forward. This can be very difficult for the sales person.

10. Buyer has been  to negotiating school

Many professional buyers are trained in sales and negotiation methods and can spot sales techniques a mile off. They will negotiate hard and use all kinds of methods to batter the price down and the solution up.

Whilst the buyer can use aggressive methods, the sales person needs to sustain a working relationship and thus is limited by this approach.

See also

Sales Books

Bosworth, M.T. (1995). Solution Selling, NY: McGraw Hill

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