I have to apologize to Dave (not me). Dave’s a good sales person, we were doing a deal review on a hugely important opportunity for his company.
He’s been working the deal pretty well, it’s very complex with several people from his company supporting him, a partner and at least the 11.7 buyers we are told are involved in complex B2B buying.
He’s doing a good job, but I was getting impatient. When we started the review, he talked about what had been happening and where he and the team were with the deal.
I asked, “What does the customer have to do next? What can we do to help them? How do we help the customer meet their target buying date?”
Dave went into more detail about what had happened, spending more time making sure I understood the current situation.
One of my weaknesses is that I’m often too direct, sometimes to the point of being tactless. I responded, very impatiently, “I get it, but I don’t care. What are the specific things the customer and we must do next? What is left to help them make a decision and take action?”
Fortunately, Dave was patient and we spent some time discussing and brainstorming next steps in detailing his action plan.
Later, as I reflected on the discussion, I realize the majority of the deal reviews I conduct are not dissimilar. We tend to spend way too much time talking about what’s happened and where we are now. That’s important, but more important is “What does the customer have to do next? What are we doing about it? What’s our collaborative action plan?”
We and our customer must always be asking what’s next. We have to have a plan to get to the completion of the project. What has happened provides context. It informs us on what has happened and helps us to determine what’s next, how we move forward to a decision. But it doesn’t tell us what to do.
Too often, we assume the customer knows “what’s next,” and all we have to do is be responsive. The reality is they actually don’t know—after all, they probably haven’t bought our solutions recently. We see evidence they don’t know what to do, by the spaghetti diagram journeys we see in the research. The data supports this with 53% of funded buying initiatives end in no decision made, simply because the customer has gotten lost in their buying journey.
We already know the process for helping the customer, and ourselves, answer the question, “What do we have to be doing next?”
It’s developing a collaborative action plan. It’s identifying the specific goals, objectives that need to be achieved; then identifying the work plan for achieving those. As we move through the process, we continually update that plan with the customer–and we implement great project management processes, keeping the target decision date fixed, adjusting our work plan to achieve that date.
We spend too much time in deal reviews talking about where we are and what’s happened. But the most important thing is, where are we going and what specific activities do we need to undertake to get there.
If you can’t answer what do we and the customer have to do next; what do we and they need to get done to achieve their goal–then we have no deal strategy—and we probably have no deal.