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The Greatest Disservice We Can Do To Our Customers, Waiting For Them To Buy!

by David Brock on March 16th, 2017

There are just too many stupid conversations about the digitally savvy customer going on.  Yes, we know customers are self educating, yes we know they are self diagnosing (that by itself is a frightening prospect), yes we know they don’t want to talk to sales people who simply parrot what they already find thought Google. We can know, expect, and encourage 100% of our customers to be self-educating.  It frees sales people up to engage the customer in the conversations most important to them–helping them solve their problems.

Whether that point at which they typically get sales people involved is 57%, 72%, or 92% is meaningless–except for those lazy and clueless sales people using this as an excuse to wait until the customer calls.  (You might guess I struggle with a world that assumes 100% inbound.)

There’s a bigger problem, and, consequently, a huge disservice we create by waiting for our customers to buy.  CEB data shows over 60% of pipeline deals end in no decision made, with buying groups blowing up when they are 37% through the buying process.  CSO Insights show over 40% of forecast deals end the same way.

Yes, we look at the data and say it’s a huge lost opportunity.  Some might say it’s not a lost opportunity because they never reached out to contact us.  (This is the “if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise” argument.)

The terrible tragedy of all this is the customer hasn’t solved their problem!  Alternatively, they may be missing opportunities to improve their business and achieve their goals!

Our customers don’t know how to buy.  They struggle with aligning the priorities and agendas of the buying group.  They struggle in defining the problem they are trying to solve.  They struggle with knowing if they are even addressing the right issues, assessing the risk, understanding the challenges.

Our customers need help!  They may not know it, but the data on their lack of success in achieving their goals with their buying/problem solving initiatives demonstrates they are struggling.  We know they avoid us—they tell us in feedback all the time:  We aren’t prepared, we talk about what we want to talk about, not what they want to talk about.  We don’t understand their businesses, or even our products.  It’s no wonder they push off seeing us as long as possible.

But think about how much we and they are missing.  40% of forecast deals and 60% of pipeline deals end in No Decision Made—-They still have a problem they need to address, they just can’t work their way through the buying process.  And those are the opportunities we see.  As I said earlier, buying/problem solving teams tend to blow up 37% through their buying process.  Think of how many deals sales never sees simply because we are intercepting customers so late in the process.  Think of all those customers that are trying to solve problems, but never even get to the point of engaging sales.

Then there are those that don’t even recognize the need to change!  They have problems or opportunities, but don’t understand them and aren’t engaged in changing what they do.

Think of the math, the sales we are making just represent a small percentage of the opportunity that exists!

Imagine the value we could create by being much more proactive, engaging customers far earlier in their process.  It’s likely, with our help in helping them learn how to buy and facilitating their process, far fewer will end in No Decision Made.  They will select a solution and start realizing the value the expected.

Come to think of it, we are not only doing our customers a disservice by waiting until they reach out.  We are doing our own companies a disservice—there are so many opportunities to compete for that we never get engaged in.

Isn’t it time we rethink what we do and how we engage?  Isn’t it time to stop using the “57%” and “customers are “digitally savvy” excuses.

Don’t we owe it to them to help them be successful with their initiatives?  Don’t we owe it to our companies to engage those people who want to buy, but struggle?


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  1. Dave, too many order takers think that they are good at sales.

    Order takers say things like: “If I could just get them on the phone, I know I could sell them.” And then, they wait for the phone to ring or get delivered “leads” from marketing.

    Good sales is getting the appointment.

  2. I’ve never quite understood the “digitally savvy thing .. becasue it also enables sales people to easily get information on their prospects too.
    The numbers about “no decision made” are revealing but should really be no surprise.
    When I think about my on-line buying behaviour it goes like this. See something I’m interested in. Realise I’m too busy to look into now. Mark it to come back later. OFTEN, never get back to it. And that’s why on-line marketers want you on their email list … so they can send reminders .. becasue they know you get busy and forget.
    IN business many companies are “fighting fires” on a weekly basis and your solution gets lost in the mire ,,, what’s the old saaying …
    “it’s not easy to remember your aim was to drain the swamp when you are busy fighting alligators”

    • Great illustration of some of the challenges we face in buying. Now multiply that by 6.8 (Thank you CEB), add to that the number of interactions in that buying group and it becomes so much more complicated.

  3. Great article! I think that even though customers nowadays can learn all the information and purchase our product on their own, it would still be best if we can still somehow be able to help them decide but we should also know when to stop selling, like what a colleague wrote.

    It’s great that this topic is being discussed, thanks for writing about this, David! Keep it up!

    • Brooke: I would contend, at least for complex B2B, the customer can’t possibly get the information they need about products on their own or online. There’s a lot of data about how many buying initiatives fail (over 60% according to CEB). The real issue customers face isn’t about which product to buy, but it’s about defining their own problem and goals. It’s about aligning the diverse interests and agendas in the buying group. It actually has nothing to do with buying signals and more to do with helping them learn how to solve their problem. And each customer and each situation is different. This is where talented sales people create differentiated value.

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