Sellers need to make it their business to turn their buyers into heroes. Why bother with this? Isn’t this just another way of making the buyer an inside advocate for you and your product? The answer is no.
The real reason is because buyers take on risk any time they become involved in the decision to spend money on a product or solution. Their “recommendation” permanently binds their name and reputation to the product selected and the money spent to resolve an issue, mitigate some pain or fix a problem.
If the solution selected fails to fix the issue at hand, the buyer will likely be the focus of blame for failure. If the problem is highly visible and the cost for a solution is comparatively large, the price of failure can be high—loss of job, loss of future promotion and loss of respect from one’s colleagues.
Sellers have an obligation to help their buyers minimize the risks associated with the selection process and in turn, realize the rewards associated with making the right choice.
Six Steps to Making Your Customer a Hero
Sellers need to work closely with buyers to complete these six steps toward success:
- Establish and quantify a clear understanding of the buyer’s issue or pain point – Things go wrong for a reason, and before you can cure an illness, you have to know what’s wrong. This means you have to go beyond symptomatic understanding and gain knowledge about the actual causes of the problems identified.
- Help the buyer articulate and gain consensus from stakeholders—a clear description of the nature of the issue identified – The buyer needs to communicate with all those affected by the problem and obtain their agreement regarding the specific effects of an issue and the actual forces or causes that are driving that effect. This should include at a minimum, IT, finance and operations management. People complain about effects, not causes. But at the same time, mitigation must attack causes in order to modify effects. Failure to understand this is why many solutions fail.
- Develop a vision of what a successful outcome looks like to the buyer – Buyer and seller must clearly establish and share a common vision of what a successful outcome looks like. If this is ignored, success will be gained only through luck.
- Identify and evaluate multiple alternatives for consideration as solutions to the issue and select the best – Most problems have multiple solutions. They also only have one “best” solution. The buyer needs to be conversant in all the options available. They need to be able to confidently explain and justify why the selected solution is best in terms of the success vision.
- Help the buyer articulate the options and logic for the selection made to all stakeholders – The buyer must close the loop back to the stakeholders with a convincing explanation of why the selected solution was chosen. This process is a precursor to the proposal presentation. Research findings, conclusions drawn and selections made are summarized by the buyer for the stakeholders. This should be the “buyer’s” show meaning the seller is not included in the presentation of this material.
- Include the specific data used to select the solution chosen in the final proposal – The seller presents the final proposal repeating most of what the buyer presented in the internal stakeholder presentation. The buyer is featured prominently as critical to the selection process. The selection and justification should not surprise anyone.
When the product is selected and delivered, the buyer needs to make sure that installation, implementation or whatever “solution activation” process needed is successfully completed. If the processes discussed above have been completed properly, positive results will be measurable and reportable.
The buyer should document all results and report those results back to the stakeholders and anyone touched by the solution and resulting changes.
When all is done, the buyer will be the hero.
Digitally Enabled Product Selection
Today, thanks to the proliferation of numerous digital assets, this process is easier than ever to execute. Stakeholders and buyers are members of a virtual team that can easily communicate and share data through many online technologies.
The review of solution choices and other research-oriented tasks within the buying cycle are greatly aided by online information sources maintained by third parties or the seller and the seller’s competitors.
Training and installation/implementation of the purchased product are likely facilitated by video demos or other online instructional tools as well as presentation tools. Even in the context of a multinational presentation, technology steps up to ensure that the entire enterprise is included in the discussion.
Buying complex products and successfully selecting the right product are complex processes. The technology is there to exploit the complexity involved and to distill from it, success.