Are You Prescribing a Solution Before Diagnosing the Problem?
QUESTION: With all the changes happening in the world of buying (B2B Digital Revolution, Committee buys, etc.) how is this impacting the fundamental role of sellers and those who support them?
SHORT ANSWER: It is impacting them in a lot of ways.
LONG ANSWER: Looking across the changes and how they are impacting sellers, one stands out above the rest. A seller today, needs to be able to successfully “change the conversation.” Allow me to explain.
While there are exceptions, today’s sales process follows a pattern and as a result it creates frustrations for most sales leaders. The pattern starts with a customer seeing a problem. For the sake of illustration let’s pretend they have identified that too many mistakes get through software testing.
They think they know what the problem is and so they work to identify the change they believe will fix the problem in their software testing process. When they think they have found the answer, they reach out to suppliers to ask for quotes on a solution that aligns to the change they have identified. The sales rep then prepares a proposal as requested for their solution.
A PROPOSAL IS GREAT, RIGHT?
Wrong! This is where things break down. The chances are very high in this scenario that:
- The customer has not done a good job of going beyond symptoms to understand the underlying root cause of their problem.
- The “solution” they are asking us to fulfill, at best, will likely only address tactical level symptoms and probably won’t give them the fix they wanted.
As a salesperson, even if we understand our client’s buy process, chances are we simply understand how they are preparing to make a bad decision/investment. We are reacting to the conversation they want to have versus leading the conversation to a place that’s better for both.
THEREFORE, WE NEED TO CHANGE THE CONVERSATION
We believe there are two fundamental roles for salespeople in the new world of buying and selling and they are closely tied to decision making.
- Making better selling decisions that are in line with corporate strategy and brand.
- Leading customers in making higher value decisions/investments for their organizations.
This may sound like a subtle shift but it isn’t. Our experience is that selling organizations have much deeper insight into what problems they solve for customers and how to source solutions for those problems.
In April 2017 Harvard Business Review published The New Sales Imperative. What they point out is that buying has become committee based with nearly seven cross-functional people involved per buy. In the best of cases, these organizations are struggling to make complex cross-functional decisions and often doing so in a sub-optimal manner. Worst case, they are simply yielding to no decision which may be a driver for the CSO Insights statistic that close rates are at a 10-year low and lower than the odds at a craps table!
The HBR article goes on further to state the new sales imperative:
“Your goal is to uncover struggles that customers would have with any supplier.”
Successful sellers need to:
- Move from understanding the customer's buy process to improving and leading their sourcing process with a focus on root cause diagnosis.
- Move from reacting to customer requests (order taking) to prescribing solutions that provide highest value to both the buyer and seller.
This fundamental shift in the role of a seller requires traditional sales training, marketing and CRM support tools to shift and deliver sellers the tools and insight they need to support the reality of today’s market.
For more on this subject please read our article entitled: The Evolution from Sales and Negotiation to Value-Based Decision Making.