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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Understanding Mainstream-Market Buyers

Mainstream-market buyers, by contrast, would buy a consumers’ guide, go to a national electronics chain store, and buy a standard package, complete with mounting brackets for the speakers, cables, prebuilt cabinet, instructions, and so on. The mainstream-market buyer is willing to pay extra to have the system delivered and installed. He or she may take out an extended warranty for extra peace of mind.

Few of them will admit it, but mainstream-market buyers don’t want the latest technology. The concept of being first, or even early, is an unpleasant one. Their comfort zone lies being in the middle of the pack— following, not leading. They focus on issues that the early-market buyer either doesn’t consider or minimizes. For example:

  • Is this a proven offering?

  • What is the track record of this company?

  • Who are the more established competitors playing in this space?

  • Will this offering become a de facto standard for my industry?

  • Who else in my industry is using it?

  • What business results have others achieved?

  • What will the return on investment (ROI) on this project be?

  • What do industry experts think about this offering?

  • Can we get consensus from an evaluation committee?

  • What type of support will we get during implementation?

  • Is my career at risk by committing too early in the product life cycle?

  • Is making no decision better than making the wrong decision?

Prior to making decisions, mainstream-market buyers need to make comparisons. Getting a minimum of three bids, for example, may be corporate policy. If your offering is so unique that there are no vendors to compare it to, the evaluation may come to a grinding halt, because the mainstream-market buyers cannot validate that they are making the right decision.

If other vendors can be assembled, they may be more established than you are. If they don’t have an offering ready, they may sow seeds of doubt with the buyer about committing early to a little-known company (i.e., yours) and a technology that has not been accepted as a de facto standard. Larger companies refer to this strategy as “sowing FUD” (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), and employ it to scare mainstream-market buyers into a “no decision” posture—giving them time to come up with their own offering.

Prior to signing, mainstream-market buyers may want a cost-benefit analysis of a potentially risky expenditure. In most cases, it will be incumbent on the vendor to help facilitate these calculations. Salespeople who don’t fully understand how buyers can use their offering will have difficulty facilitating this analysis.

And finally, mainstream-market buyers often require references and reassurances that the early market doesn’t ask for. Typical requests made by mainstream-market buyers prior to making a buying decision include

  • Vendor contractual guarantees

  • Your entire reference list to perform their due diligence

  • Delayed payment contingent on performance

  • Meetings with your senior executives

  • Prototypes or free evaluations

  • Headquarters visits

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