One of the weakest areas of buying and selling that I see is probably “qualification”. As sellers there are dozens of acronyms, if any you have a “qualified deal”. BANT is the grandfather of it all, but others have come up with their own alphabet soup by pushing their approaches.
These can be helpful if they are applied, but all too often salespeople do not apply them in a disciplined manner.
However, these are for sellers to hopefully use to find some great deals to look for. But just because the client can answer these questions does not make it real from the client’s point of view. Just look at Hank Barnes’ provocative research into planned and unplanned buying efforts and buyer regrets. Look at the number of budgeted buying initiatives that never result in an order (even though the customer might give all of the BANT questions the correct answer).
We and our clients have wasted a tremendous amount of time and resources on transactions that are not and may never have been “real”, although we and the client thought they were.
There are four conditions that we and our customers need to meet to maximize the likelihood that the buying effort is real and can end successfully, rather than just disappearing because more important things distract the customer’s attention.
Condition 1: The customer / opportunity is at the center of our ideal customer profile. Imitation buying may be real, but if it’s not in our PKI, it’s someone else’s business. But too often we fail in broadly ill-defined PICs. I was talking to a client and asked him to describe his key PKI. “These are technology companies! So I asked, what kind of tech company? Semiconductors, electronic components, systems companies, software (enterprise, SaaS, and others), telephony / internet / network service providers, equipment manufacturers to these, distributors or technology products, integrators, providers of outsourced solutions, technologies B2B, B2C technologies ……. Are they the established giants or the start-ups, or somewhere in between? What is their “corporate personality” style of operation / decision-making? »What level of maturity do they need in their markets? Are they innovators, early adopters, laggards? Where does our product fit best in terms of solution maturity… .. ”The customer mumbled,“ Start-up SaaS software companies I guess….
We need to have a rich definition of our IBO and focus exclusively on the right businesses. And, generally, if we don’t hit our numbers, rather than broaden our scope, we are more effective when we reduce that target.
Condition 2: “What is the urge to change? Most of the time, we never understand this. We’re just relieved that the customer wants to hear about our product. Sometimes we guess at the urge to change, based on what we think we heard from the customer, or what we wanted to hear from the customer.
We don’t know the urge to change is until the words come out of the mouth of the buying team (and they say the same thing). We have to hear them say, “This is why we have to change now, this is what will happen if we don’t do it, and this is unacceptable.”
And the customer may not know this answer! But until they do, they don’t know why they should buy, if they should buy, and why they should buy. Two of two things are likely to happen to these customers. They will wander, get lost, have fun and never buy. Or if they have made a buying decision, they will be unable to respond to the challenges of their management: “Why do we have to do this? Why do we have to do it now? The answer “They gave us a big discount” will not be enough.
This is one of our first opportunities to create real value. We can help the customer to develop the answer to this question. We can teach them, we can help them think differently about their businesses, we can get them to talk to others who have made similar decisions.
But until the customer can confidently answer this question, we have nothing to sell because the customer has no reason to buy.
Condition 3: “When do you need to have the solution in place? This is one aspect of the why now question. This helps the client to think more deeply about the urgency of their change initiative. If they can’t express this, they may have no urgency or the problem may not be pressing.
Note that this question is not: “When do you make a buying decision?” That’s when they need to have the solution in place and start getting the results they want. With the most complex B2B decisions, this is the most critical issue. And that determines all the decisions they have to make, including purchasing decisions.
For example, a few years ago I worked with a client who made complex candy wrapping machines. (It’s actually quite fascinating.) A major candy maker was launching a new line of products. In this sector, the buying season from September to December accounts for the majority of their income. They hoped to sell $ 500 million worth of chocolates during this time. They needed to have candy on the shelves in September. If they didn’t, they would miss the entire buying season and lose that $ 500 million opportunity. This is when they needed the solution in place (also note that this is about them and their goals, not what we are selling). We then asked questions: “When do you have to start making a product to get there?” How long does it take you to set up a new production line and qualify it? It will take us and all of our competitors 9 months to design and manufacture these machines. So you have to make a decision on which packaging machine you want to buy, by that date, or you won’t achieve your goals. Knowing the answer to this question also improves your ability to set the target close date and minimize slippage or change.
Condition 4: “What are the consequences of not having a solution in place by this date?” This reconfirms the urge to change, the urgency, what they are trying to achieve and when. Using the previous candy example, if they didn’t have a product on the shelves in September, they would have lost $ 500 million in revenue. They wouldn’t be able to capture that income for another year (the product on the shelves in January did nothing, the majority of the income is in the last 3.5 months of the year.).
In this project, the client was hijacked. But because we had a good understanding of the urgency, when a solution had to be put in place and the consequences of its absence, we were able to go see the client, remind them and ask them if it was acceptable. In crude terms, we were very “pushy”, but not in the sense of getting our order, but in helping them achieve their goals, to meet their commitments to their management and to themselves.
As I mentioned, often the customer does not know the answers to these questions. But knowing these answers is critical to their success in solving their problems and achieving their goals. Knowing the answers to these questions allows them to get the support / investments they need from senior management. Knowing the answers to these questions keeps them disciplined and focused on the tasks they need to complete to buy and achieve those goals. This increases their own commitment to success.
The majority of purchasing initiatives undertaken end with no decision taken. Customers get lost, they get turned away, they lose interest, they forget why and what they were trying to achieve in the first place. Too often clients don’t deeply understand why they need to make a change, when to implement it, and what happens if they don’t Unknowingly they can’t get the support and investment that they need to be successful.
Nothing is ever 100%, but if we and the client are aligned around these conditions, we both have a much higher likelihood of achieving our common goals.
If we don’t know the answers to these questions (the customer’s answers) and the customer doesn’t know them, the reality is that the opportunity is more likely wishful thinking and not a reality.