Shiny new products don’t sell themselves. Have you heard that expression before? No matter how innovative, convenient or “beautiful” your product is, you have to go beyond just putting it out on the market and hoping it’ll stick. This is especially true with business systems and selling technologies that support them. Business systems as an industry itself is new, so trying to convince others to adopt something that hasn’t itself been publicly recognized for an extended period of time is a task on its own. But how can you convince others that this is the right way forward? How can you tell buyers that without implementing these systems and the technologies between them across business, you’re bound to lose efficiency, which slows loyalty, the customer experience and growth?
Assessing the Customer’s Needs
The customer has likely already recognized that there’s some sort of problem, which is the reason for their touchpoint with you in the first place – either via marketing collateral, paid media, word of mouth, tradeshow attendance, etc. However, in many of these instances, it wasn’t enough that you caught their eye. You have to empathize with them as well.
It’s become clear through research that you have to address the buyer’s pain points as well as goals and aspirations to make the sale. Without that feedback, research and quality time invested in figuring out the problem(s), your product may be no different than many others on the market or could be missing the mark in terms of what people are looking for.
Once you have that determined, your prospect could need a bit more nudging. It’s not that you as a salesperson or Systems leader (because, let’s face it, in trying to introduce new systems to stakeholders who are used to older workflows, you are making a sale) aren’t doing a good enough job – it’s just that you are challenging the status quo, which makes you “the enemy.”
Why Am I the Enemy?
You could be thinking, “What does this mean? I’m just trying to help.” But, inevitably, if the customer chooses your product (or even a competitor’s), they’re changing the norm. They’re revamping current operations or a way of life their department(s) may have known for years. Yes, your solution may be helpful in the long-run, but why go through all the trouble now?
For this, you have to identify what’s standing in their way of realizing your true relationship with them? Or, in other words, what’s the invisible roadblock or wall they keep putting up?
To you, there shouldn’t be any walls. You’re likely offering to automate their current workflows, which saves them time and/or resources and allows them to focus on more complex, value-added tasks. In some cases, you may be removing their manual work completely, creating a zero-touch process for what they’ve done before.
However, just because someone has a problem doesn’t mean they’re ready to make the change. Despite the fact that 25-30% of overall revenues are expected to come from new sources of business, which requires innovation – and that both revenue and R&D spending among the Global Innovation 1000 continues to climb – complex business challenges and an increasing number of stakeholders often lead to a “reversion to the mean” in which no change occurs.
The reason for this is because implementing a new solution always presents more short-term challenges. Researchers at Cornell University and the University of Chicago have identified what they call “sudden-death aversion,” which is the tendency to avoid “fast” strategies that provide a greater chance of success, but include the possibility of immediate defeat, in favor of “slow” strategies that reduce the possibility of losing quickly, but have lower odds of ultimate success. Decision-makers often don’t want to “tempt fate” because a “big choice” like adopting a new product is often followed by a near-term upheaval. Therefore, they may see these upheavals looming just a short distance away, and stop their analysis.
This can be akin to football players on the field at a clinching end to a game, in which a team could either kick an extra point to put the game into overtime or choose “sudden death” and try to get the ball into the end zone from two yards away. Here’s why some teams choose the latter, and how it “reflects a common bias that can lead to nonoptimal decision making in a great many contexts, some far removed from the gridiron.”
Avoiding short-term risk, therefore, is logical. The problem, however, is that this avoidance is so strong that stakeholders often choose an option with lower odds of success because it puts the risk of failure further down the road. Oncoming challenges like implementation and adoption root customers to the status quo, a choice that avoids these responsibilities but ultimately leaves them in a less-than-optimal state.
They also may feel like they’re losing something during this period of change. According to Bree Groff with SYPartners, there are six types of loss that we can experience when looking at the possibility of change:
- Loss of Control – “I need to feel in control.”
- Loss of Pride – “I need to feel valuable.”
- Loss of Narrative – “I need to own my own destiny.”
- Loss of Time – “I’ve invested so much of my time already.”
- Loss of Competence – “I’m good at what I do – and maybe now I won’t be.”
- Loss of Familiarity – “I like the routine. This means I need to change.”
As sellers of a complex solution, our job is to help our customers make the changes their organizations need to achieve their goals that help them overcome the status quo. We need to get them to understand: change to status quo = no more pain, which means we need to first honor what they feel is at risk if they keep doing it. What will you lose if you do nothing at all? Is it worth the change?
You as a Systems leader have to help them understand that the pain of keeping things the way they are is greater than the risk of trying something new – because according to them, the risk isn’t worth the loss. According to Gong.io, you have to dive into the pain before you hit the gain. By digging into where they are today (Point A), you facilitate self-discovery and focus on how the current situation makes them feel, because we’ve all hated losing much more than we like to win.
With that bond, they begin to see you as someone who’s fought previous battles and won – who’s revamped or removed previous systems and processes and replaced them with new ones to make business more efficient – and are seen as the best solution to their problem, as you could explain it better than they could themselves (quantifying the problem and backing it up with statistics of how you’ve solved it will help, as well).
You are now considered a mentor or coach for their solution, helping them cross the finish line past inefficiency, wasted resources and stunted business growth.