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Wanting To Buy Is Insufficient, Does Your Customer NEED To Buy?

by David Brock on February 16th, 2012

Some of you reading the title will say, “Dave’s really gone off the deep end this time, if the customer wants to buy, isn’t that enough?”  Maybe in B2C that may be sufficient, but in today’s B2B world, it’s not enough. 

I’m seeing too many sales people with too many stalled deals.  Too many deals clogging up the bottoms of funnels, too many deals that are “almost there,” perpetually.  Sales people claim, they’ve done everything possible, but they just can’t get the order.  We drill into those deals, “What’s keeping the customer from moving forward?”

I may be playing some word games with “wanting” versus “NEED,”  but I think it’s critical for sales people to understand this.  In today’s world, customers won’t buy unless there are compelling consequences to not buying.  The things that happen as a result of not buying must be critical–they must be things the customer has to avoid or eliminate.  They must be more important than any other choice the customer has.

But what about the business case, the justification?  Well that’s part of the problem.  Too many deals I review don’t have the business cases completed.  The customer sees the benefits, we may have talked about areas of savings, improvement, and growth, but the specific business case has not been completed.  When I ask, often I’m told, “the customer isn’t asking for one,” or “what we’ve provided is enough.”  A business case is mandatory, unless we are dealing with the owner, there has to be a business case.  The buyer–regardless of level, needs a business case to evaluate the investment and to get approval.  Even the CEO of large public companies need a business case.  It’s not the customer’s job to develop the business case, it’s our job.  If we want the deal to get done, we have to develop the business case, we have to guide the customer in making sure they understand the business case and that it meets their criteria.

No business case, no deal!  It’s as simple as that, as much as the customer may like the solution, as much as they may see the value of the solution, no business case, no deal!  No amount of excitement or desire on the part of the customer will get the deal done in a B2B environment.  If you’re involved in a deal that doesn’t have sufficient business justification and you can’t figure out a way to close the gap, walk away.  It simply won’t happen.  Stop wasting your time, tell the customer who wants to buy to stop wasting her time.  No business case, no deal!

But the business case is not sufficient.  I’m seeing too many deals with great business cases that aren’t getting done.  A while back, I wrote, “Are Your Customers Doing The Right Job Of Qualification?”   These days, too often, we can develop a great business case with the departmental or functional executives we are dealing with.  They want our solution, there is a great business case for the solution, but the deal doesn’t get done.  The days of “finding money for justified business proposals” are gone.  If  the deal isn’t critical, if the deal doesn’t fit into the top 1 or 2 strategic priorities of the organization, it simply won’t get done.

We have to provide leadership in doing this–we need to make sure our customers qualify their management upfront.  We need to make certain there is a NEED the organization has–not just our customer.  That NEED has to be one of their top priorities.  If it doesn’t exist, our ability to get the deal done–our customer’s ability to get the deal done is at risk.

How do we do this?  It’s not easy, but here are some ideas—all based on having a rock solid business case.

  • Does what we are doing fit the strategic priorities of the top management in the organization?  Can we directly tie this initiative to those strategic priorities and the impact we will have on them?  Can our customer do this?  (Note, this means we have to understand the strategic priorities of our customers–too often I find sales people don’t know these.)
  • What are the consequences of doing nothing?  Too often, our business cases talk about the justification for the purchase–have we met the ROI  or payback objectives?  But sometimes the business case misses the consequences of doing nothing.  Can we make the consequences of doing nothing unacceptable to the customer?
  • Why must it be done NOW?  This is somewhat related to the previous point, but too often things can be pushed back.  The customer will do it–just later—then even later—then….  Why is it important to take action now?  Can we create a compelling event, a compelling reason that would cause them to miss something if they didn’t act now?

What ideas do you have?

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4 Comments
  1. Dave,

    I don’t think you’ve gone off the deep end; at least not based on this article. I would actually go one step further: a true consultative salesperson does NOT always give customers what they want. he or she gives them what they need.

    Too often customers’ wants are dictated by an incomplete view of the situation, maybe because they don’t know what’s possible, or they’re not yet aware of imminent risks in their environment, or a competitor has shaped their wants. consultative salespeople may bring a wider or or more up to date perspective, and they must also have the confidence and dare I say the courage to challenge the customer’s perspective.

    • Brilliant Jack!! I think it’s always been important for sales people to do this, but with the advent of wide information (misinformation) availability on the web, it’s even more important. Customers may not know what’s possible. They may even be misinformed. Sales people have to challenge these and get the customer to focus on what they need. Thanks for the great reminder!

  2. As Jack said you haven’t gone off the deep end yet!!!!

    As you know this is a favourite hobby horse of ours, its not just the business case or the buying process or the relationship with the buying team that ensures the buyer will buy its all three with risk management a key element of the business decision. Sophisticated buying teams in big organizations will only buy when all three are aligned and squared away..

    Opportunity pipeline reviews we see over here in Europe tend to focus on, one maybe two of these areas with risk not being mentioned very often. This is having a massive affect on the number of stalled deals.

    The buyers we speak to say buying has become like a risk management process. If buyers are studying risk variances and risk levels surely our opportunity reviews should call out the area of buyer risk: project risk, business risk, personal risk and technical risk. Having conversations about risk can be uncomfortable for many but you know it may reduce the number of deals that get stalled.

    One way of reducing the discomfort around discussing risk is to check the procurement guidelines/code of ethics that the team you are selling to must follow. Many of them will talk about taking an open, candid and fact-based approach to discussing risk issues with sellers. This may just help open up the risk conversation in a safe enviornment.

    Hope this adds to the conversations.

    All the best
    John

    • Great comment John! Too often we overlook risk–it’s a critical element of our value proposition. Thanks for the great reminder!

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