Our customers are focused on addressing their business issues–whether addressing an opportunity, driving growth, improving operations, solving a problem.
Sellers focus on their products–what the products do, the capabilities, features/functions, and how the products are superior to the alternatives.
And this is where the challenge is. Buyers and sellers are focused on two entirely different things. With respect to Keenan, this is the gap.
But the challenge buyers and sellers face is more than bridging that gap. It’s more than how we, collaboratively, get from one side to the other.
The challenge is the buyers are doing something they have never, or rarely, done. They don’t even recognize the opportunity. Ad when they do, they don’t know how to approach it. It’s not in their experience base. They have their day jobs, that distract them. It may not even be something they even recognize. It may not be something they are held accountable to address!
Yet, that’s what the majority of sellers force their customers to do, without providing any help.
- “We have an opportunity to grow! What do we do, how do we do it, what are the risks, what should we be looking at…..”
- “Something is happening in our markets, they are being disrupted, what does that mean, should we change?”
- “We have a problem, we aren’t achieving our goals, what’s the problem, what’s the impact of that problem, should we do anything about it?”
- “We should do better…but what does that mean to us, why should we do anything……”
The customers are all alone in doing this. They aren’t even concerned about buying something. There’s all the messy front end that’s all about their business and what, if anything they might do.
Some of us claim, “We’re solution sellers we help the customer understand the solutions to their problems…” But the customer isn’t, yet, looking for solutions. so solution selling doesn’t help.
It turns out we leave all the heavy lifting, to the customer. They have to do the majority of the work, they have to recognize something might be done, there may be an opportunity, they must change.
Once they do that, they need to do all the messy stuff of figuring things out, defining the issues they have to address, figuring out what questions they should be asking, figuring out whether they even need to change, who should be involved, and on and on……
But they’ve never done this before, and they don’t know how to do it.
Ironically, we’ve worked with hundreds and thousands of customers who’ve gone through that process before. Customers who’ve struggled, perhaps stumbled, perhaps failed, and those who have succeeded. We have a tremendous experience base of other customers who have gone through the same thing–knowledge and experience which could be helpful to our customers, if only we chose to be helpful to our customers.
But most of the time, we fail. We let the customers struggle, doing all the heavy lifting. And the majority fail. But for those that do, they eventually get to the point where they might say, “here are the solutions we should be considering.” Then the solution sellers pile on.
And the customers persist in their struggle, they get to a point where they say, “these are the products we should be considering….” And we jump on, “Tell me your requirements for a product, can we schedule a demo…..”
As one reflects on this process, we recognize the enormity of the work effort the customer undertakes, if they choose to. We recognize how customers may wander, how much time it takes, how often customers fail.
And then, we start thinking of all the waste and squandered opportunity.
We, sellers, know–or should know– how to help customers do this. How to make it easier, shorter, how to make them more successful in doing this.
Yet, the majority of the time, we don’t help. We don’t even develop our people so they can help. We train them on our products, we train them in how to sell our products, but we don’t train them in how to help our customers. We don’t train them about our customers businesses and how we help them change and improve their businesses.
As look at tougher economic times, it becomes even more critical for customers to change and improve. We have such a great opportunity, the question is, can we seize it?