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What Does The Customer Need To Move Forward?

by David Brock on February 16th, 2022

There’s a major flaw in most of our (sellers/marketers) mindsets when we think about opportunities and the customer buying journey. This flaw is embedded in our engagement approaches, our processes, how we think about deals and moving forward.

The flaw is thinking about, “What do we need to do next to move this opportunity forwards?”

The problem is this focuses on our own perspectives and needs. It focuses on our informational needs, the activities we need or want to conduct to more favorably position our offerings. It is usually optimized around how we want to work with the customer and manage our own workflow.

At best, the customer is the victim recipient of the things we determine are necessary for us to move the opportunity forward.

The problem is, however badly we want to do these things, whatever urgency we have in moving an opportunity forward, we have no control and little influence in the pace at which the customers move through their buying journey. Our need to “close the deal” by the end of the quarter and the tactics we leverage to try to achieve this are meaningless to the customer.

Yet, we continue to focus our deal strategies, our selling process, our workflow on the things we need to do.

A more effective approach, and an approach that creates far more value, is to shift our perspective, asking:

“What does the customer need to move forward in this project?”

This question changes how we work with customers. It moves the focus from the work we do, to the work the customer must do. And this work goes far beyond us and our needs.

The bulk of the customer activities, critical to their progress, have little to do with meeting with sales people. Most of it is what they must do within their own organizations, whether it’s aligning perspectives of the problem to be solved and the process by which they will solve it. It’s about whether they are involving the right people to consider solutions to the problem, it’s about gaining agreement within their organization about what they want to achieve and why it’s important to them.

Then there is a lot of study and research about the problem–not about solutions. Do they understand it? Do they understand what creates the problem, the impact on the organization, why it needs to be addressed, the risk/impact of doing nothing. It involves research with others. Have others experienced the same issue, how has it impacted them, how did they address it, what risks did they encounter and how did they manage it? What questions did they consider, what goals did they establish, how did they manage the process to a successful outcome?

They may want to think about how the problem impacts the rest of the organization, their customers, their suppliers. They may want to consider how it impacts their market and competitive positioning.

Ultimately, they need to answer the questions, “Why change?” They need to do this both for themselves, their customers/suppliers, others impacted in the organization, and their management.

Inevitably, there are personal perspectives in this process. What if they make a mistake and do the wrong thing? How does this impact their own jobs and ability to achieve their goals? How does it impact the things for which they are accountable? What might go wrong? How do they find the time to do this work, in addition to their “day jobs.”

Note, all of this is about the problem, opportunity, or change the customer is considering and it’s meaning to them–organizationally and personally. Then there is all the stuff they need to go through to understand and assess the alternatives.

And most of this is before they even begin considering solutions. In fact, many buying journeys end before they even get to the “buying” part of the journey.

Add on top of that, the amount of time we get, unless we change our engagement strategies, to work with customers. Only 17% of their time is spent with vendors–all vendors.

Focusing on the things we need to get done, minimizes our ability to create value with the customer. It doesn’t let us help the customer make sense of what they are doing, making a decision in which they have high organizational and personal confidence.

We serve our customers better and more effectively achieve our goals by focusing on the question, “What does the customer need to move forward?”

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