A couple of months ago in the Pipeline, I published a piece called Long Live The Status Quo, which challenged the way most people look at buyers commonly referred to as being in Status Quo Zone. The core of the argument being:
Status Quo is NOT buyers who are perceived to be happy with their current solution and see no reason to change, but rather as buyers who have yet to be presented with a solution they perceive will improve or change their current circumstance, and as such see no reason to change. Given the solution, a reason to change, they will change.
One question that many had was how does one initiate the process of getting someone who is ostensibly “all set” to enter in to a discussion around buying something. The simple answer is you don’t, or you can’t. You have to let them get to that on their own. But you can do things to create an environment that will help them get there, you can do things that will get them to Engage, and then take them through the rest of the EDGE process:
You are all familiar with the old “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion…objects at rest tend to stay at rest.” This is why the “let’s wait” school fails; they see a prospect “at rest” and respond leaving it “at rest”; sure doesn’t take long for nothing to happen, that’s not selling. Selling be to understand which of the potential prospects “at rest”, could be Engaged with and thereby set in motion. This can be done, but it takes work, it takes a tolerance to being wrong and CORRECTED, notice I did not say rejected. That is how most people see an initial negative response from a buyer, as rejection, rather than correction.
The work starts before you Engage, or even try, it comes in the form of understanding why you have won deals in the past; why you have lost deals in the past; and why some deals ended in No Decision, neither a win or a loss. Some have argued that you should focus only on you wins, which are important; but let’s not forget that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” You need to look at the wins to better define what to look for in the future, but this may cause you to be slow in responding to changing trends. You need to look at your losses because they will show you what you can change in your game to lead to more wins. Lastly the “No Decisions” are key because they went some distance with you before things fell apart, you competition is likely not to revisit them for some time, which leaves you to explore how to possibly rekindle the deal based on what you are learning from wins and losses.
Armed with this information, you now should be able to list what issues people were looking to address when buying from you, what specific value they saw in you offering that made them act, (in exploring your losses you will also surface issues you missed or ignored that you should be incorporating into your discussions). With the lists completed, you can rank them, see where there is strong correlation, and where there is, you should rank those high in your plans for engaging a buyer. This should give you a list of topics a buyer will potentially be willing to at least talk about based on experience. This is what I call the “Dentyne approach”, you know “four out of five dentists recommend”. Well if four out of the last five shipping managers bought for specific reasons, addressing specific issues, delivered in a specific way, etc.; then it goes to follow that you have a good chance of engaging with the next shipping manager if you lead the conversation based on the list you created.
When you know what issues are likely to be on the minds of buyers, when you know where you have been able to deliver specific measurable and documented value to those buyers, (this is why you should always be collecting testimonials and case studies); you can start building a set of better questions. This in turn will help you take someone at rest and set them into motion, once in motion, you can move to selling them.
Given the solution, a reason to change, they will change.
First thing is to establish that the issue exists. Let me give you an example from my world. Having done the above work, I know that many sales leaders are looking for more prospects, more new revenue opportunities. Even knowing that, if I was speaking to a VP of Sales and asked like the “let’s wait” crowd does, “Need a prospecting training program?” or worse “You need a prospecting training program”. The answer is predictable, would not lead to Engagement or motion.
But if instead the discussion unfolded like this:
ME: George, I am curious, how much of your revenue comes from existing clients vs. new clients?
George: Just looked at Q2 numbers, about 85% existing, and about 15% from brand new customers.
There is your floor.
ME: And if we were to look at your plan going into 2011, what were the numbers you based your plan on?
George: We actually were looking to grow the base organically, to where it was about 75% of total revenue, and 25% would come from new sources.
There is you Gap, the 10% difference is opportunity to fully Engage and set things in motion. It all comes down to how you mine that Gap.
Mining the Gap involves a series of follow through questions aimed at getting the buyer engaged and thinking more deeply about the issue. By getting them to think about it, they will take on the issue. Think about it, the reason they are in Status Quo, despite their awareness of the issue, is that they have ignored it, buried it, “Status Quo’ed it”, not because they are happy about missing their new business goals, but because they have yet to be presented with a viable solution, and have refused to deal with it. By mining the Gap, you not only surface the issue, get agreement that it is an issue, but can begin the process of Discovery as to the impact if it remains the same; or alternatively the possibilities if it were to be addressed.
Given the solution, a reason to change, they will change.
The follow ups:
Quantify – How do they arrive at the number/issues/thing being discussed? How do they measure things? Without understanding where the numbers come from, you could be walking on thin ice. This is even more important when you are dealing with things that are not always quantified. For example, if the line of questioning were around the quality and abilities of their front line sales managers.
What do they attribute the Gap to? An easy way to ensure that you are on the right path with the right solution, but mostly it is to get them to think about it, if you don’t get them to think about it, and leave them hovering on the surface of the issue, you’re beat.
What is the upside, the IMPACT of closing the Gap, closing meaning achieving their original goal. Again, good way to understand their priorities, but also a great way to get them specifically articulate – Out Loud – the upside of success. Without that the effort and investment may not seem worthwhile, and it is usually the effort, not the money.
What is the IMPACT over time? Most solutions have a duration beyond one fiscal year, so when it comes to measuring ROI, ROE, it is important that they understand the full scope of the benefit. Using the example above, if each rep trained was to stay with the company 5 years, and as a result of the training they generated $10,000 per year, the total return per rep is $50,000, and any measure of success should be based on that figure.
Done right, you would find the Gap for each of the issues on your Dentyne list, and go through the Gap process for each of those questions before you even thought about closing or moving to the next step. The reality is that what makes the process a challenge for most is not the upfront work, which does take effort, but the ability and willingness to ask the penetrating questions that pierce the Status Quo, and lead to Engagement. As with most things in sales, it is down to the execution.
What’s in Your Pipeline?
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