Friday, April 05, 2013

How can you Be Provocative without being Arrogant?


One of the issues you face as a B2B solution provider is that more and more deals are stalled, with almost 60% of prospects choosing to “Do Nothing” versus saying “Yes”, this according to Sales Benchmark Index.

In order to get these deals un-stalled, you must facilitate your prospects’ decision making as they attempt to answer key concerns along their decision making journey:
  • Why Change? - there are important opportunities to address, some of which they might not have even been aware
  • Why Now? – the opportunity is a priority compared to everything else they have on their plate, and that failing to address the issue will cause competitive harm
  • Why You? – that you are the best provider with the most cost effective, low risk and high value solution
Earlier in the buyer’s journey it is key for you to be provocative - engaging Prospects with unique insights in order to help them recognize and prioritize potential opportunities. However, you need to find a way to do this "consultatively", without being perceived as an arrogant know-it-all, or worse, as confrontational. The question is how to be a provocative without being negatively challenging.

An Empowered Buyer Changes Everything
Today, your prospects are more empowered, leveraging the Internet and social media to research opportunities, potential solutions, you and your competition. Yet even though your customers seem to be uber-independent, the need for consultative help has never been higher, or perceived as more valuable.

In this “Do more with less” economy, your customers have less resources than ever to transcend the day-to-day firefighting and proactively uncover and work on important issues. Overwhelmed by a wealth of information, it is easy for your Prospects to overlook key issues, delay addressing important opportunities, and perhaps, take the wrong path.

A doctor friend of mine, Dr. Gary Kalsar says it best, where “patients nowadays come into my office asking for specific treatments and meds. A few visits to WebMd or social “help” groups and they’ve self-diagnosed their ills and are asking for very specific treatments and prescriptions. I have to say, time-out. Let me ask you a few important questions about what ails you. Let’s run a few key tests and be sure that your diagnosis is correct, and the treatment you are asking for is indeed the best.”

Because access to information makes everyone an expert, we tend to self-diagnose and prescribe, delaying professional advice – sometimes until it is too late. Your sales professionals are likely being invited later and later into the decision making process, with reports that up to 2/3rds of the decision making process is complete prior to engagement.

Although Sales is being invited later, it has become more important than ever to engage earlier and more provocatively in order to win the business. At this year’s Forrester Sales Enablement Forum, it was reported that vendors who engage earlier, helping the Prospect identify issues they might not have known they had or prioritizing issues that should have garnered more attention, were awarded 76% of the deals. While those who won the bake-off closed a mere 24% share.  The split was 65%/35% just a few years ago, so you can see how engaging earlier, in a provocative manner, is even more critical now.

This puts enormous pressure on your Marketing to provide more insightful, consultative and personalized content to guide the vital early stages of the decision making process.

Your Sales teams are even more stressed, to deliver a more compelling reason to be invited earlier, and when invited later, empowered to quickly diagnose customer issues and potentially reframe the decision criteria towards your key differentiators.

Being Provocative without being Arrogant
So how can you engage provocatively without being perceived as confrontational or arrogant?

There are several good ways to accomplish this, but one of the best is to interact with your Prospect and deliver compelling insights via a Diagnostic Assessment tool.

First, you ask a few questions about their current spending and practices, with the responses compared against best practices and competitive benchmarks to deliver data-driven insights.

Where is your Prospect spending more or less compared to the competition? What practices are missing, or are less than stellar? How much is your Prospect ahead or falling behind their peers? All of these are answered in a collaborative way using your Prospect’s own inputs and scores / comparisons to a database of best practices and benchmarks.

As the tool is used by your Prospects, sales reps and channel partners, the scoring and benchmark database grows with each successive engagement, and can be automatically leveraged to deliver real time insights.

This is not some generic research scribbled on a whiteboard, which may or may not apply to your buyer’s challenges, but a way for you to deliver a true consultative and insightful data driven engagement.

Once the issues are uncovered, the Diagnostic Assessment tool can go further, where the best practice scoring and peer benchmarking results are leveraged to help:
  • Highlight the highest priority areas of concern
  • Help estimate the current cost of “doing nothing”
  • Intelligently recommend potential solution sets and next steps to help resolve the top priority issues
  • Provide a quick estimate of the value that these solutions might have in reducing costs and risks and driving incremental business benefits.
Click here to see a few examples:

Diagnostic Assessments and the Buyer’s Journey
So how is a Diagnostic Assessment best used to help facilitate your buyer’s decision making journey?

Earlier in the decision making journey, a Proactive Health Check can be used to help the buyer uncover issues of which they might not have been aware, help prioritize the issues and provide diagnostic advice on best next steps.

Later in the decision making cycle, your Prospect may already be biased towards a particular approach and solution, and is using you and your competitors’ marketing content or sales rep conversations to determine who will win the “bake-off”.  At this stage, you can use a Confirmation Assessment to politely do what my friend Dr. Kalser does to patients who have self-diagnosed their issues and want a prescribed treatment. The tool can help confirm or guide your Prospect’s self-diagnosis – to be sure you are working on the right high priority issue, and that the prescribed solution is indeed the best course. This technique is extremely effective in helping to reframe the decision making, in a very consultative way, to highlight your key differentiators and how they might best address your Prospect’s top challenges.

The Bottom-Line

It is important to engage your more empowered Prospects in a more provocative way, in order to get “Do Nothing” buyers to “Yes”. But in doing so, you need to be sure that you aren’t perceived as an arrogant know-it-all, and are addressing the challenges that your Prospect should indeed be addressing – based on their unique capability and maturity, issues and competitive pressures.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is via a Diagnostic Assessment which can be used throughout the journey to help consultatively uncover and prioritize issues and provide data-driven advice and recommendations – in an interactive and engaging way.

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