As sellers, we seem to think the most important thing to our customers is learning about our products, services, and solutions. But there’s a lot more to complex B2B buying than just learning about various products and services.
The list of things our customers struggle to learn includes: Why change, what’s driving the need to change, what happens if they don’t, what are the risks to that change? How do they define the problem, how do they make sure it is well defined, how do they assess the current impact of that problem? Who does the problem impact, how does it impact each of them, what are they doing about it, do they want to do anything about it? Problems may have ripple effects in an organization, so a number of people may be impacted indirectly, how is it impacting them? What data do they need to get to understand and characterize the problem and it’s impact on the organization? How are they going to get that data?
Have they encountered these issues before, how did they address them? What’s different now?
Who should be involved in assessing how to solve the problem? How do they get their interest, engagement, and support? How does the team align around the problem and what the team is trying to achieve? What is the project plan, goals, schedule? What roles does each team member play in the project? How does the team get management support and broader organization support?
How do these problems impact other organizations? What are they doing about these issues, where have they have they succeeded, where have they failed, what can be learned from their experience? What can the team learn from others that have solved these problems before? Are there “experts,” the team should engage in helping assess the problem and alternatives for addressing the issues?
What is it they need to learn, who do they best learn it from? How does the team best learn about the issues surrounding the problem and solutions to the problem? How does the team stay aligned through the project? How does the team deal with shifts in personal and organizational priorities? How does the team bring new team members into the project? How does the team manage differing views, priorities, and opinions within the team?
Has the team correctly assessed the issues around the problems and their impacts? Has the team assessed the risks appropriately? Has the team understood the key issues to putting solutions in place?
What solutions have others put in place? What should the team be looking for in a solution? How will the team evaluate various solutions? Which solutions should the team consider? How should the team engage and evaluate alternative vendors?
How do they make sense of all the conflicting information they get–both about the problem itself and solutions to those problems? Who should they be listening to? Are they looking in the right places to learn? What could go wrong? What happens if things go wrong?
How will the team lock into and align around the project plan, goals, and schedule? How will the team gain the support of the organization as they start presenting solution alternatives? (Both management and organizational buy in?)
How does the team finalize the budgets, investments, and resources needed for implementation? How does the team get final approval to move forward?
What are the implementation issues, not just around the solution, but around the change management and buy in for the organization? How does the team get the right resources in place to implement the changes? How does the team get the support of the organization for the changes? What happens when things go wrong?
And the list goes on….
On top of all this, there is a very specific context to this process–it’s specific to the organization, it’s strategies, priorities, and culture. It’s specific to the people involved in the process and their personal aspirations, goals, fears. It’s specific to a point in time and may change over time.
It’s easy to understand how customers struggle. It’s easy to understand how why so many change and buying efforts fail.
Learning about our solutions and the alternatives is actually the smallest part of what the customer needs to learn and develop answers.
If all sellers do is focus on their solutions, they aren’t being as helpful to the customers as they might. Customers need help, they are looking for help, but too often, they help they get from sellers is not the help that’s most important to them.
Imagine a seller that changes this…..