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Why Do They NEED What You Are Selling?

by David Brock on December 8th, 2014

I have to admit, part of the reason I’m writing this post is to ease my conscience  (Yes, I do have one).  Yesterday, I was doing a deal review.  It was a very exciting opportunity and a very large deal–one of the largest this sales person would have for the year.

Fortunately, he was very early in the sales cycle.  He had done a pretty good job at qualifying the customer.  It was a real deal for a significant amount of money.  As he described it, he focused on the technology of the solution (he sold technology products/solutions).  He had made significant progress on the technology issues the customer was having and the superiority of his products and technology.

I asked, “Why do they need this new solution?”

He came back, “The current solution is very old.  They are starting to have some problems with it.  It’s not performing as well as it should, there are problems the remote sites are having, there are some reliability issues, there are some things they would like to do, but they can’t do.”

I replied, “I understand that,  it sounds interesting, but why do they need the solution?”

He looked at me, eyes slightly crossing.  He repeated himself, speaking a little louder and slower (we were having this conversation in Frenglish–a mix of French and English).  Rightfully, I didn’t understand some of what he had said, but I responded to his re-explanation, “Je comprendre, but why do they need the solution?”

At this point he started getting frustrated.  I tried to explain, mostly in English.  “People don’t buy technology just to buy technology, they buy it to solve a business problem!”

He was a strong sales person, replying, “But they are having problems with their current technology, so they need to replace it with the new stuff!”

I replied, “Yes, but the easiest way to solve the problem, in this case, is to just turn the system off.”  He looked at me cross eyed and said, “They can’t, it’s a vital system, they can’t turn it off.”  To which I replied, “Why can’t they, why is it so vital?”

At this point we had a long pause in the conversation, we were at an impasse (a French and English word).  I felt bad, I was pushing the sales person very hard and he was getting frustrated, thinking we were going in circles.

Part of the problem was that he didn’t know the answer to this question because the customers he was working with didn’t know the answer to the question.  They were technologists, as well.  They knew they had an unhappy end customer.

This is the crux of so many issues we face in selling–particularly if we are selling technology products.  We don’t understand why they NEED the solution.  We understand why the people we are talking to might need the solution, but that may not be the fundamental business reason driving their need.

Every sale, regardless of what we sell (in B2B), is fundamentally driven by a business need.  Opportunities we are missing, revenue we can increase, revenue we won’t lose, costs that we can reduce, customers we can acquire or retain (both of which translate into revenue/cost), quality we can improve.

Unless we can understand these reasons, our ability to maximize the value we create, maximize our differentiation, and close the deal–producing the return the customer wants, is always in jeopardy.

If the customers we are dealing with don’t understand this, then we must help them understand why this is important to their success in solving the problem, and help them get the answers from their end users.

Without this understanding, without knowing the specific business impact of the current problem and the improvement the solution would provide, no major purchase will be approved.  Our customers know they have to go up the food chain to get approval for major investments–even if they have the budget.  Senior management is driven by business impact/results, and if we and the customers we deal with can’t address these issues, there is no reason the customer should buy because we haven’t demonstrated the compelling business reasons to buy.

This applies to everything we sell!  No if’s, ands, but’s!

There is a happy ending to this story–at least the prospect of a happy ending.  As we further discussed the deal, we believed we understood the potential business need, though we had to meet with end users to understand the specific impact.  We believed the business problem was severe, they were losing sales and potentially losing customers.  So there was sound business justification.

But there’s more, because it was a large complex project, the technologists at the customer were looking at a 3 year roll out.  As a result, they would be losing some revenue (a declining amount over the project implementation) through the 3 years.  It might amount to 10’s of millions of Euro’s.

In thinking about this business impact–which we had to verify–we realized, we could provide not only the product but an implementation plan and services to dramatically accelerate the implementation, avoiding the 10’s of millions in lost revenue.  We could help the customer solve the business problem much faster than they ever expected!  In doing so, we more than doubled the revenue my client would get from this deal.  A true win for everyone.

So we have to answer the question and possibly help our customers answer the question, “Why do they NEED to buy this?”

C’est une bonne idee!

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