Manufacturers spend a lot of time analysing and mitigating risk. Much of this activity is aimed at the internal processes they employ, the partnerships they embrace and in the economic climate they operate within. One area that is frequently overlooked is evaluating and mitigating risk from the point of view of their customers.
Inaction is a form of paralysis. It is, in reality, an action unto itself.
Understanding the assorted risks the prospect or customer faces is key to building a better customer relationship—a relationship that will hopefully evolve into a customer partnership that features all of the mutual benefits associated with a partnership.
Understanding others starts with gaining some level of empathy for the person you are dealing with. In our discussion, this means understanding the specific risks your customer may perceive or confront. Some of these are very generalised and others are more specific. Regardless, they are all concerns to be addressed.
5 Risks Your Customer May Confront
1. Misunderstanding Pains or Failure to Identify Needs
We all are adept at understanding when things go wrong. The hard part is understanding why they are going wrong. In business, this is frequently evidenced by poor financial results for a quarter or a year. Less obvious are missed sales targets, surprising losses of “sure thing” sales or account defections. Regardless, someone is quite rightly bound to ask why these things happen.
Answering that “why” question is tougher than pointing out the issue in the first place. Politics, “brainstorming” and other daily realities of corporate life will frequently complicate the process of answering the essential question of cause. Sometimes this does not become apparent until solutions are being evaluated, which may or may not reveal the true nature of pains or needs.
Salespeople must be aware of this from the earliest phases of the selling cycle. For complex issues, they must seek answers beyond the inputs provided by a single contact. Early questions must be focused on understanding the nature of the issue causing pain and only then can possible solutions be discussed or evaluated.
Care should be taken to gather information from multiple sources within the customer’s organisation. Just covering one person’s concerns may get a sale, but does it really help the customer?
Getting the sale and losing the customer shortly thereafter is not good business.
2. Misunderstanding the Solutions Offered
Buyers are frequently at risk in terms of truly understanding the capability and limits of any given solution offered for their specific needs.
Products can be oversold or benefits over promised. Prejudices related to the vendor or product proposed can obscure an accurate vision of true benefit delivered. Misunderstanding the solution offered is just as dangerous as misunderstanding the needs and requirements.
Again, sales must be prepared to fully engage with the customer and be open to discussing these types of concerns without being defensive. High-quality customer references and product technology such as CPQ will go far in helping the customer gain confidence and trust in the proposed solution.
3. Risk of Excessive Caution
Most people who buy things have experienced the terrible feeling of being deceived or otherwise mistreated by a supplier. Regardless of the reason, justified or not, the result is scepticism when dealing with almost any supplier or vendor after that occurs.
This abundance of caution can go beyond healthy levels and turn into a total lack of trust in anyone proposing a solution or selling a product. This is a blindness that will prevent the buyer from seeing the benefits of a quality solution when presented. This may be tied to the individual, the company offering the solution or the product itself.
Regardless of the reason, the buyer will suffer because they will be unable to move forward with a potentially successful solution evaluation.
Sales must find a way to mitigate this mistrust or it will become an obstacle to all communication with the buyer. Seeking additional internal contacts may be necessary. Although, care must be taken to not present the appearance of “going around” the buyer.
The use of qualified references, the effective quantification of specific issues matched to specific solutions, aided by CRM and CPQ technology are useful in this process, as well.
4. Overbuying or Under-buying
Buyers are well aware that sales folks want to sell and maximise the value of any sale in which they are engaged. No one likes to be oversold. They are also well aware that purchasing a solution that is only partially effective in addressing their needs is equally galling.
The goal is obviously to align the selected solution perfectly with the specified need. This requires communication based on honesty and trust. The sales rep and the buyer must establish a relationship that is based on that goal of perfect alignment.
For sales, this is predicated on being customer-success focused. This is what is meant by making your customer a hero. Time spent on the front end of the sale delivering useful content related to the customer’s pains and challenges goes a long way in establishing trust before one-on-one contact is even initiated. Customer portals that offer high-value content to visiting prospects are an excellent way to establish the vendor as a trusted purveyor of information.
Once engaged, CPQ can guide the pain and solution conversation toward a successful conclusion by placing seller and buyer on an equal footing in the configuration and proposal of the most perfect solution possible.
5. Obsolescence of the Purchased Solution
Anyone who has purchased a new automobile knows the feeling of disappointment from seeing the next model year car advertised with some feature or look that is appealing. In business, it is more complicated. Technological development is always in progress. We all know that whatever we buy will
Buyers are wary of buying a solution that is sold primarily in an effort to eliminate existing inventory and make room for new models. The key to avoiding obsolescence during any purchase is to first assure that the solution being purchased is indeed efficacious in mitigating the pain or issue being experienced.
For Sales, this issue is addressed best in an honest fashion. Positioning a solution as being just right even though the pending model will offer this or that feature that may be nice, but not necessary is an effective way to present the product honestly and with full disclosure. The buyer can determine if sacrificing the added functionality available in the next product iteration is a worthwhile compromise in light of pricing and current availability of a solution.