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It’s Not About What Your Product Does….

by David Brock on August 14th, 2017

Everyday, I speak with sales people who are struggling.  They’ve got a rock solid deal, the customer is qualified and interested.  These sales people are eager to educate the customer about their products–and customers are at the point in their buying cycles where they want to be educated.

But somehow deals become stalled.  Conversations continue, but things don’t move forward.

As I review the deals with sales people, trying to figure out how to break them loose, a common theme keeps coming up.  The conversations are all focusing on what the product does.  That is, the focus is on product capabilities, features, functions.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, these sales people aren’t just focused on pitching their products to marginally interested customers.  The customers are at the point in their buying process where they are eager to learn and sales people are eager to respond.

It’s a trap our customers fall into, and we go down that rat hole with them.

What our products do is important to our customers.  But what our products enable our customers to do is what’s critical to their ability to move forward in their buying process.

The reason they are buying is not because of what the product does, but because of what it enables them to do.  It may sound like I’m wordsmithing, but it’s an important difference–one that both we and our customers lose sight of.

It’s critical we keep refocusing the conversation.  The customer is buying because they want to drive some change or improvement in their business.  They want to grow, they want to solve a problem.  These are the fundamental drivers to making a decision and justifying it to their management.  This is where we need to keep refocusing the discussions.

What our products enable our customers to do is why they are buying.

The magic of focusing our discussion here, not only because it moves the conversation back to what the customer cares about, but it provides us a broader and stronger base to differentiate and justify our offerings.

If the focus of our conversations with customers is what our products do, it’s difficult to differentiate ourselves from competitors doing the same thing.

But if we change the conversations–while our competitors are still talking about what their products do, we are focusing on the customer and the outcomes they will achieve.

We also have a much broader platform for justifying the investments our customers make in our solutions.  As an example, recently a sales person was reviewing his deal with me.  He was struggling to justify his solution.  He was focused on the cost savings his solution would provide over the current way his customer was doing things.  There were savings, but possibly not enough to motivate the customer to change.  When we shifted the conversation to focus on his customer’s ability to retain customers (they were losing customers because of mediocre service levels).  All of a sudden, there were millions more in justification and motivation to change.

While this should seem obvious, we and our customers lose this focus.  We get so caught up in what our products do, we forget the real conversation needs to be about what they enable the customer to do.



  1. Martin Frey permalink

    Well said, Dave. I describe this as; “What is, and how do you quantify the much higher derived value?” You have to verify what is being done for the customer as well as the customer’s internal and external customers. You have to find a way to change the game and play it differently from all the competition.

  2. Brian MacIver permalink

    “The reason they are buying is not because of what the product does, [or, doesn’t do]
    but because of what it enables them to do!”

    Sometimes, differentiation, is in what we, or our Product, don’t do! We have to look at it from the Buyer’s POV, and the outcomes they truly want.

    Don’t tell them “it’s faster”, if they don’t want speed!

  3. While in the first meeting with a prospective customer (multi-million dollar deal), a very specific product question was asked and the rep responded with “that’s a great question and a critical one to note when we focus on the solution requirements.” The rep then started to peel back, piece by piece, the people, the causes and the all of the elements that created the problem that the customer had highlighted.

    After the meeting, I asked the rep why he didn’t answer the customers product question and the rep said “he wasn’t ready to hear the answer yet”. The rep knew the customer was still dealing with internal change management issues and not ready to consider solution options.

    At the end of this very first meeting, the rep had surfaced everything and everyone who had created the current problem and would potentially touch a new solution, he made recommendations as to what departments and people should be added to the buying decision team, suggested that they might want to try several workarounds to see if that solves the problem and insisted that the decision team come to grips with the disruption that a purchase might cause. The rep was asked to present to the current decision team. He declined until the other departments had been added to round out the team.

    Within a few months the rep was added to customers decision team. He skillfully guided the team to buy-in to an external solution and the solution criteria that the external vendor would need to deliver. The rep told me ” they were going to do this anyway, so they might as well do it with me”.

    5 1/2 months start to finish, $6.2M deal. The rep discussed the details of the product and solution during the last 4 weeks of the purchase.

    The time it takes people to get buy-in and understand their own answers to all of the internal change requirements is the time it takes them to make a decision to consider an external solution. It really has nothing to do with their need, your solution or your relationship until they are certain about what they will end up with.

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