Build Paths, Not Walls: Three Steps to Make it Easier for Your Prospects to Buy

I sat in a conference session about building IT systems to ensure HIPAA compliance (which is all about medical insurance, in case you’re not familiar with HIPAA) and kept hearing pundits offer advice about how to prevent users of these systems from doing things that are unauthorized and outside the rules. It gave me flashbacks to conversations with my own insurance company and all the nightmarish moments having representatives tell me, “Our systems won’t allow me to do that.” (I’m betting you’ve been there.)

I realized that, each time the issue was resolved on these calls, the representative and I found some way to work within the limitations of the system to create a resolution that worked for me and seemed to work for them.

What we found was a path. The interesting thing to note about this path is it was the best option that offered — this is important — the least resistance.

I use this principle every day in my work. I try to find the way to achieve my goal with the least resistance. This doesn’t mean the easiest way or any sort of cheat; it means the way that allows me to do the best I can while avoiding unnecessary obstacles. I try to find the path of least resistance.

No matter what type of business you are in, at some point in your sales process, your prospect will complain (usually subtly, sometimes loudly) that some particular requirement to complete the purchase transaction is undesirable, difficult or even impossible to meet.

You just found a wall. Your prospect just hit that wall and might stop there instead of continuing to complete the purchase. You’ve heard this called “friction in the sales process” or any number of other challenging terms. You also have heard endless advice telling you to remove these obstacles. So let me offer you three simple steps for making it not just easy, but desirable, for your prospect to buy.

First, walk the path with your prospect.

Most salespeople will tell their prospect what the next step is. They will ask the prospect to complete some action, get some approval, call a meeting and so forth.

This is similar to providing a map and telling your prospect to get to the end of the path. It can work quite well. But it’s not the best approach.

Stop thinking of yourself and your salespeople as a map, and start thinking of you and them as a guide. Walk the path with your prospect. Take the same steps. Help them over the obstacles. Warn them of dangerous turns. Reach out a supporting hand when it’s needed.

This achieves two prerequisites for removing obstacles. First, it changes your perspective to align with your prospects. Second, it lets you take step two.

Second, relentlessly remove obstacles.

As you walk the buying path with your prospect, you will suddenly see — very clearly — every single obstacle, difficulty and blocking wall along the way

Make it your job to remove those. Not just for right now and for this prospect, but to remove the institutional barriers that keep those obstacles there for every future prospect.

And be relentless. Don’t let the small ones stay. They will grow and make your life — and your prospects’ lives — more difficult in the future.

Third, identify and clarify how this walk you are taking with your prospect creates value for your prospect.

In an earlier post, I discussed how to define measurements of value and how to determine the value you create for your prospects.

It is on this walk together that these measurements are created and defined.

Make sure you are talking about value and expectations. Make sure your prospect understands why it is so valuable to them to take each step and each turn along the path.

And when you reach the end and complete the purchase, you and your prospect will have a strong mutual understanding of why you are there and how your future relationship will progress.

It’s not always easy to take these three steps. There are plenty of obstacles, internal and external, to changing how you approach your work and your prospects.

But if you do, you will not only have created a path to purchase that is freer of obstacles, but you will have created an inviting and welcoming path your prospects will want to travel with you again and again. Buying from you will be their path of least resistance.

Which makes your job — and theirs — so much easier.

Jeff Weinberger is the founder of DS3 Consulting. He has spent his career helping organizations create, adapt to, and capitalize on disruption in their markets, technologies and businesses.