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Love The Insight, I’ll Write A RFP!

by David Brock on March 3rd, 2013

The good news, we’ve engaged our customers with stunning insights.  You’ve gotten them excited, they’re motivated, they want to change!

The bad news, the brilliant insight you provided didn’t cause them to immediately succumb and give you a PO.  They’ve assembled a buying team, they’re going to start to shape their priorities, evaluate alternatives…….

Hold on there, that’s not the way this stuff is supposed to work!  How can they take your insight and put it out to bid?

Well, the crass answer is, “They’re the customer, that’s what they get to do!”  You’ve stimulated the customer to enter into a buying cycle, they are naturally going to evaluate alternatives.  They’re going to align everyone internally with what they want to achieve–both in they buying cycle, but in the implementation of the change initiatives you started.

There’s the naïve tendency to think, this is unfair, you’ve presented this insight, “How dare they compete it!”  But once you get over yourselves, you have to move on, seizing your leadership opportunity.

Let’s look at the process of providing, buying, and delivering insight more carefully.

First, you’ve succeeded with the first part.  You’ve engaged the customer in conversations about their business.  You’ve shown them opportunities to grow and improve.  You’ve gotten them to buy into taking action and changing.  They’re motivated and moving forward.  Those are some of the toughest hurdles, bu you still have to get the order.

Now they’re in a buying cycle, but they need help–lots of it.  After all, the insight you provided was about things they may have never thought of before, things they may have never considered, things they may not know how to do.  They need help–what should the be looking for?  Who in their organizations need to be involved?  How should they buy?  They’re probably going to be doing a lot of research and self educations.

They may become aware of others that may offer solutions to what they are trying to achieve.   But you’ve already established that trusted relationship.  They are looking to you not just for the insight but continued leadership in buying, implementation, and execution.  If you continue to offer leadership and insight through their buying process, you help shape the requirements, priorities, and the customer buying playbook.   You’re working with the customer defining their needs, requirements.  The competitors are left to responding and reacting.  They cannot create the same value or provide the same leadership.

The competition may be struggling.  After all it’s your insight–and presumably your expertise in that areas is deeper than giving a standard pitch.  You know how they should be taking advantage of it, where the difficulties might be, what the customer needs to do to be successful.  Customers are looking for that leadership.  They will recognize that without it, it’s probably for them to achieve the goals they had hoped for.

It’s  critical you know how to provide that leadership.  Insight and taking advantage of it does not stop with the “pitch.”  It’s real value is being able to continue with the customer through their entire buying and implementation process.  Even if alternatives are considered (as they should be), even if competitors have been contacted, the insight and change initiative is based on our expertise.

But what if, in the end, it’s all about price?  Despite everything that you’ve done, the customer see’s everything as equal, and they choose le lowest price.  They refuse to recognize the value you have provided, or even the fact they probably would not have gotten to this point without your leadership.  In the end, whatever powerful justification you provide, the customer chooses a competitor who is saying, “I can do that too, only much cheaper.”

It happens, rarely, but it does happen.  What then?  It tells you something about your future with the customer.  They really don’t value insight and the leadership you can buy.  They focus only on price and not the relationship sales people can provide in helping improve the business.  Don’t waste your time on them!  Nothing you do–other than being the lowest price alternative will win those customers over.  Go somewhere else, there are plenty of customers that value what you do and your help in improving their business.

Insight is the first step, but we have the great opportunity to provide ongoing leadership, building our value and advantage, by working with the customer through their buying cycle.

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  1. David,

    Don’t you think insights are little overrated in sales since most companies and their leaders know what is going on in the industry?

    Isn’t an RFP to really see who can deliver the business outcomes cheaper, faster, better and smarter?

    • Jay: It’s an interesting question. The concepts of creating insights is not new, in selling it’s been around since at least the 70’s, driven by some of Neil Rackham’s, Mack Hanan’s and others. But sales people and managers have struggled to provide insights on a sustained basis. From a customer point of view, I don’t necessarily agree that leaders know what’s going on in the industry. At a high level they do, but at a deep level, that required for sales they don’t. Beside insight is far more than what’s going on in the industry. Insight is about getting the customer to think differently about their business. Whether it’s an opportunity to grow, opportunities to improve their operations, whatever. These can come from a wide variety of sources, some from far outside the industry. So I don’t think insight is overrated, but I think it is misunderstood.

      On the RFP’s, it’s one of the means customers try to evaluate alternatives, theoretically on a level playing field. Whether it’s effective, or level—well that’s a long discussion.

      Thanks for the comment.

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