I’m starting to get “those” calls. Execs are asking for advice. They are expecting difficult times, they are trying to figure out how to deal with the uncertainty in the economy that all of us face.
We’re already seeing the early signs of it. Layoffs, before unimaginable, are happening and more are preparing for reductions. Where a few months ago we were scrambling for talent, comp was skyrocketing to attract the right people; now we are seeing job offers being withdrawn.
Execs are also asking, “How do we maintain sales, how do we keep driving revenue as much as possible? We anticipate budgets will be cut, what had been important and urgent before, remains important but is no longer urgent. Funded projects will be put on hold or abandoned. Opportunities we and our customers have been working on will disappear.”
In many of my discussions about how to deal with these issues, execs are saying, “We have to double down on our value propositions!” For years, I’ve talked about the concept of “the pain of doing nothing must be greater than the pain of change.” I’ve focused on developing business cases and justifications to put dollars and cents to those arguments and to drive high sense of urgency to help customers make that change.
And in a tough economy, those issues become even more important. We need to help our customers address those issues. We need to help them reduce costs, maintain/grow productivity, find ways of maintaining and growing revenue, drive performance and productivity.
So building these compelling business cases become more important in tough economic times.
As compelling as these business cases are, customers will still struggle. And our natural reaction is to double down on the business case, on the costs of not taking action. After all, these are even more important in tough times.
But the problem is, this strategy won’t work!
As compelling as the business case is, as much as the customer buys into the business case, that’s not what they are concerned about. They get it, they don’t disagree–they helped develop this.
But that’s not what bothers the customer in tough times.
What bothers them is simply, “Am I/We doing the right thing?”
Stated differently, it’s decision confidence.
In tough times, the uncertainty, indecision, lack of confidence around whether they are doing the right thing become so much more important than in good times (and it’s very important them).
The consequences of making a bad decision or the wrong decision are much greater in tough times than they are in good times. The risks are higher. The uncertainty is greater. The competition for limited funding is greater.
Questions like, “Will this really produce the results we expect? Is this the right thing to do now? Should we be focusing on completely different issues? What will happen if we choose poorly?”
These are the issues that paralyze the customer and keep them moving forward. And no matter how strong the business case and justification is, until we help the customers address these issues, they will not, and should not move forward.
It turns out the greatest value we create in these times is not the fantastic business case for our solution (that’s table stakes, we have to have that), but the value we create is all about helping the customer be confident in their decision, that they have chosen well and that they are doing the right thing.
As we rethink our strategies in a tougher economy, we do need compelling value and business cases for our solutions. But the real issue in getting a decision is how the customer feels about the decision they are making, how we address the fears, uncertainty, and concerns that are magnified in tough times.
For leaders and sales enablement professionals, what are you doing to help your teams understand and address decision confidence and indecision?
For sellers, are you having the conversations that bring these fears to the forefront. Are you helping your customers build their confidence not that they have chosen correctly, but that they are doing the right thing?
Afterword: Need help with this? Give me a call, we’ve been working on this for sometime, helping clients change the way they engage their customers, not just with the value created by the solutions, but in creating value with customers as they deal with these very difficult and deeply personal issues.