By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
The buzz about empowered buyers getting 60-70% through buying cycles before contacting vendors and salespeople has caused a general malaise about proactively contacting prospects. Sellers lacking the sales skills or desire to do business development can easily rationalize waiting until web leads are passed or the phone rings. For both sellers and organizations this approach has several shortcomings:
- Sellers exert little control over their new account revenue pipeline and production.
- “In basket” selling occurs because:
–Organizations with ideal profiles for your offerings may not contact you.
–Some inquiries will not meet your qualification criteria.
- If your web site provides a poor experience, you won’t make short lists.
- Having multiple vendors in the mix from the start leads to smaller margins.
- Sellers won’t start with, nor likely be granted access to decision maker levels.
- Many of these “buying cycles” are unbudgeted and doomed to end in “no decision.”
- Most organizations that should be considering your offering at any given time aren’t.
Trite but sage advice: Rather than waiting for your ship to come in, row out to meet it.
Two core concepts of CustomerCentric Selling® seem more applicable today than when they were developed over 10 years ago:
- Organizations have latent needs for your offerings. We define prospecting as causing buyers that aren’t looking to start looking.
- No goal means no prospect. Stated another way, buying cycles begin when someone within an organization expresses a goal they would like to achieve or a problem they would like to address and are willing to spend money to do so. As you can imagine, the higher the level of the person expressing the goal, better the chances a buying decision will be made.
The primary reasons sellers and organizations struggle with business development are rooted in their inside out view of markets. These companies are so product focused they believe buying cycles should begin because buyers need their offerings. This causes them to lead with products and target levels that can’t fund unbudgeted initiatives because past efforts have shown that executives won’t take the time needed to learn all about their products.
An outside-in (customer-centric) view would go a long way toward clarifying business development efforts. Take a step back and consider buyer needs to be unexpressed business outcomes from high-level buyers that can be achieved through the use of your offering(s). Taking this approach offers several benefits over traditional business development:
1. High-level buyers of likely prospects are targeted.
2. If buyer business outcomes are not uncovered early, prospects disqualify themselves.
3. When successful in uncovering outcomes, sellers can diagnose the barriers to achieving the outcome and create visions for executive buyers.
4. Access to other members of the organizations is lateral or downward.
5. Budgets are seldom an issue if sufficient value can be established. Reallocating money earmarked for other offerings is a common approach used to fund new initiatives.
6. The first vendor to create a Key Player vision becomes “Column A.”
7. Sellers invited later in the opportunity (often to allow buyers to gain negotiating leverage with Column A are not given access to Key Players and have low probabilities of winning.
Many companies plough a high percentage of their revenue and profits into developing and enhancing their offerings. Sellers are given extensive training in learning all about features, but each offering is viewed as a noun (what it is) vs. a verb (what buyers can do with it).
Creating executive level demand has little to do with describing products and offerings. Executives buy outcomes. Work backward by identifying business issues that can be achieved or addressed through the usage of your offerings. As Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt so aptly put it: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”
Executive buyers would appreciate a customer-centric approach if marketing organizations and sellers would stop trying to sell them drills.