Helping Your Buyers Look Beyond Themselves!
We know we need to be customer focused. We know that we are most effective when we focus less on what we sell, but how we help the customer with their opportunities and challenges.
For many, just this shift in focus, moving from internal focus on pitching products, to focusing on the customer is a huge challenge.
But the reality is, we and our buyers, need a larger perspective. We and they have to look beyond themselves, if they are to succeed with their initiatives for change.
Helping our customers look beyond themselves, the problems they are trying to solve, the opportunities they seek to address, has at least two contexts:
- What’s driving their customers/markets and how does this buying initiative impact that?
- What are the priorities of their organization/top management and how does this buying initiative impact those?
The problem is probably rooted in human nature. We tend to be “self” or internally focused. As sales people we struggle to shift our focus from our own goals and what we want to sell to our customers.’
Likewise our customers tend to focus on themselves–their department/function, or their own personal goals and aspirations. Good sales people recognize this, becoming buyer focused.
But our buyers don’t exist in isolation, they are driven by the organizations they must work with, internally, as well as by the needs of their customers and markets.
Helping your customers identify growth opportunities: Recently, I had conversation with the VP of Sales for a company that sells basic materials (think chemicals). Their product is, largely, undifferentiated with that of the competitors. They seek to improve their differentiation with quality, supply chain management, ease of doing business, and this causes them to win many opportunities.
But their growth with these customers was limited. They sought to figure out, “how do we drive greater demand for our products within these customers.” The trick ended up not being to focus on their customers and expand their share, but in helping their customers focus on their own customers and markets. They worked with their customers trying to help them identify areas in which they could grow with their customers and markets.
This VP of Sales had realized their ability to grow was largely limited by their own customers’ abilities to grow. Helping their customers address these issues enabled my client’s company increase their value to their customers, as well as drive their own growth with these customers.
Helping your buyers align with their company priorities: With another client, the situation was quite different. They had actually won the decision for a multi-million Euro system with their customer. The buyers had made the decision to buy my client’s solution. The challenge was, the order never came!
What happened was, their customer’s division president had gone to top management requesting approval to move forward. The division already had the funding in their budget, but they needed to align with top management. The business case was compelling, this was an important initiative to this division, they were excited about moving forward.
The project was stopped dead in it’s tracks. Top corporate management didn’t approve the project. It wasn’t directly aligned with the top priorities they had for the organization. In fact, they wanted to take the funding the division had committed to this project and divert it to another division with a project that was more aligned with the top priorities of the organization.
Our customers are competing within their own organizations for management attention and the allocation of scarce resources/funding. Unless our customers can connect their buying initiative to the impact on the top priorities of their companies, the liklihood of getting approval is very small.
In the case of this client, we worked with them and their customer to refocus the business case on the impact on top company priorities. Ultimately, they got the project approved.
The bottom line: Shifting our perspectives from our own goals/priorities to those of our buyers is just one step to achieving our goals. We have to help our buyers shift their own perspectives from an inwards focus on their own needs to how those needs/requirements align with the needs of their customers/markets, and within their own company priorities.
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