In my work with clients I do a lot of deal coaching. This involves me working with the sales team to dissect opportunities in order to understand where we really are in the customer’s buying process (versus where we think we are.) More importantly, the goal of Deal Coaching is to develop a plan for us to advance the deal to a win.
To determine the likelihood of a deal closing, I focus on the concepts of Need, Buying Process, and Financial Impact.
Business Impact represents the economic justification a prospect will use to invest in our solution. Notice I used the term invest rather than buy!
When reviewing our Understanding of Impact, the sales representative often presents the opportunity as something the client has assured them is ‘Important.’
Unfortunately, the word ‘Important‘ is meaningless. There may be some specific detail behind this word that will justify the investment in our solution but prospects do NOT invest in something without a tangible return.
Think about it: The cost of our solutions is always stated as a tangible number. When the benefit of implementing our solution is represented in anything other than numerical terms, no decision is the most common result. You can read my article about this here.
Here is a fast and simple approach I use to determine if something a prospect represents as ‘Important‘ is something they are likely to invest in.
“Since you’ve stated that this initiative is important, I’d like to understand what other actions, efforts, or investments you have made so far this year to address this particular issue.”
This open ended question probes for evidence that they have spent time formally defining the problem and/or testing other ways they have explored to address the problem.
Stated simply: Talking to us should NOT be the first thing someone does to address an issue they feel is actually important to them or their company. Naturally, situations exist where we arrive at the inception of the prospect’s need…but these should be an exception not the norm.
An absence of existing or in-process organizational investment of time and effort indicates this initiative is probably less important (as well as less urgent) than other things they are working on right now.
Of course this does not mean we should walk away from the conversation dejected. It simply means the prospect is in the learning and education phase rather than an actual buying cycle. It is actually an advantage to be in the door early.
However… If the prospect has not put forth any real effort – other than talking to vendors – our approach must shift away from charging ahead with demonstrations and proposals. Instead, we should focus on Artful Discovery to help the prospect fully define their needs and the impact of investing to solve those problems.