How to inspire customers to change in B2B sales
The status quo is the main competitor in complex B2B sales. Especially for products and services that fall outside existing budgets. Such as products or services that are innovative, intangible, or in a new category.
Status quo can come in several forms. For example, it can be a decision to do nothing. Also, it can be a conscious choice to delay. Furthermore, status quo can be to remain with the current solution.
Before a customer will buy your solution they first need to buy into the need for change. Especially if they had no plans to buy your type of product or they have no budget allocated.
What should you do until you have full buy-in from the customer that they are ready and willing to change? NOTHING. Talking price, giving a demo, ALL activity is useless before the customer is ready to change.
I speak from painful experience. I had a big sales opportunity in 2014 that I was working on for over 9 months. Everything seemed to be going great. I had many productive meetings with the customer. Furthermore, I developed an in-depth business case. We did many demos. Moreover, I thought Cisco was my big competitor in this account. I did lots of things to show how my solution was superior. Finally, I used every sales technique I had learned from years of sales training. Bonding and rapport. Match and mirroring. Everything. So, it came as a big surprise to me when the customer decided to do nothing. After all, they stuck it out with their current sub-par solution.
I made the cardinal sin of racing ahead before I had ensured that the customer had good reasons to want to change. Because for most people status quo is like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. It feels safe and comfortable. Change is hard. It is risky. It involves so many unknows. It entails lots more work for already overworked people.
What can you do to overcome this bias towards status quo? There are some specific stories you need to tell prospects along the sales journey;
1. Why Change a. What happens if you don’t change? b. What happens after changing? 2. Why Change NOW a. What happens if you delay?
Why stories? There are lots of reasons to use story telling in sales. But the main reason is that good stories move people and inspire them to take action. A brochure, PowerPoint presentation and demo can not do that. Ever.
Let’s look at one type of story in particular. The ‘what happens after changing’ story. This is also known as the ‘success story’.
In the technology industry we have a tendency to be so enamored with our product. So much so that we often tell this story from our perspective. Our product is great. We are great. This is a mistake.
Your prospect needs to visualize themselves in the story. They can’t do that if you tell the story from your company’s perspective. The success has to be all about what the customer accomplished. You want to paint the picture for prospects of a customer that was in a similar situation as them. But they were willing to challenge the status quo. They took the risk and benefited from it.
To ensure that your success story is about the customer, follow the simple 80-20 rule. 80% about the customer. First, talk about what was their status quo. Second, why did they need to change? Finally, what happened after they changed? Then no more than 20% about your company and product.
If you are in complex B2B sales put away the presentation and don’t demo the product. Until you have clear buy-in from the prospect that they want to change. Rather than PowerPoint presentations, use stories. Stories about why the prospect needs to change. When you start doing this you will enjoy a faster sales cycle and close more opportunities.
About the Author: Bryan Socransky is the CEO of Disruptive Consulting Group. Bryan's experience spans over 25 years in enterprise software and B2B SaaS. He helps companies who sell unbudgeted solutions generate faster pipeline and get more customers. By disrupting the status quo in favor of their innovative products and services.