Focus on HOW: Fear of the Unknown and the Customer WHY

With the macroeconomic shifts in the economy driven by inflation and supply chain issues, traditional selling of showing pain point value isn’t simply enough in 2022.

Don’t get me wrong, addressing pain in processes and showing a solution is helpful and builds a foundation in value mapping for a client – but you cannot simply rely on the tested formula of a problem + your solution = resolution + signed contract.

I’ve had several deals in the past six months not get over the finish line, not because value wasn’t built – the client saw value, but their ‘why’ for action had changed.

In this climate you need to look at distinct ‘Customer WHYs’ – both are interconnected an important to understand and address in winning a deal.

  1. Longterm Business Initiatives: This also can include a personal driving ‘why’ for a CEO or champion, but it all tracks back to the longterm goals of the business and culture of the company.
    • example: Manufacturing Company wants to open a new plant and increase production on a new patented projected within two years. They want to grow their company accounts by 40% in the next five years…This example is a bit vague – but it shows the growth motion with targeted focus that you can use for actionable steps as you partner on technology implementation.
      • The problem in 2022: Many longterm goals for a company are still in motion, but the C-Suite is delaying their growth timeline or pivoting to more immediate goals as a result of supply chain issues, consumer demand, talent shortage etc…
      • As a salesperson you still need to explore and build out a practical roadmap (step by step – focusing on phased approach) for their longterm business initiatives, but unfortunately in our current climate this is often NOT enough to drive urgency and a immediate path to PO.
  2. Short term/process oriented goals: In a typical sales cycle you can drive urgency with discussing the immediate ROI – ‘how will this help me NOW’ approach, which is usually tied to tackling processes + pain and how your product can solve that bottleneck. This differs a bit than the longterm initiatives because you are not looking at the long term value as much as solving a problem in the NOW.
    • In value selling you really need to tackle the process pain (supply chain is effecting on time delivery because we don’t have a clear inventory system of our warehouses) + strategic scalability to realize longterm goals beyond point by point solutions. You need a mix of both to truly bring value.
      • Ex: We can immediately help you by providing real time insights to your inventory issues so you can ensure you have the tools to maximize on time delivery; our tool also allows you insight into other suppliers networks so you can ensure you can anticipate demand before supplies run out…Long term we need to figure out a better way for you to scale, so that you can manufacture more parts and have a growth strategy…
        • This is just one example, but you show the short term fix + long term strategy = value. “By increasing your ability to monitor inventory you will save time on excel sheets and data silos, this time enables you to increase your productivity on meaningful tasks by 10 hours a week. In addition the inventory software helps you to understand the ever evolving market so you can ramp or slow production as needed, reducing shortages and overages which lead to costs…
  3. Emotional WHY: You can speak to logic and dig meaningful pain points when building value and urgency with longterm and short term business initiatives – through discovery and logically explaining the way they save time, money and build for scalable growth – but in the heart of every deal cycle there is an emotional element that can both benefit and critically impact a deal cycle.
    • Emotion connects us in our humanity and if you are an empathetic consultative salesperson you can tap into emotion in impactful ways to help the client how transformation will positively impact their day to day job and business success.
      • Fear of missing out – because in truth if they don’t act they will lag behind in the industry…this is a fear based emotion, but is powerful because you are helping them to see past the in the moment status quo and open up to the possible.
      • Risk vs reward: humans are more apt to take action out of fear of loss versus gain. Showing how they lose by not moving forward (without being a fear monger – that is not professional) is important to get to the heart of ‘why’ you are a must have technology vs a ‘nice to have’ feature.
      • The art of the possible…we love to dream and the chance to see the art of what could be and the positive impact is often a driver when we make purchase decisions…Ex: I want a new car because mine has over 100,000 miles, but in reality it still runs and has no major issues – but I see the art of the possible with a new car…not worrying about future repairs, the better stereo system (key as I love music)…the warranty…

I apologize if that was a bit longwinded, but the point is that we have multiple factors that initiate purchase and stalled deals.

All of these are still major factors in how we run discovery and understand the why of the client, unfortunately our third point – EMOTION – has begun to take over in most deal cycles.

You can build the most compelling case for change; provide a business value map with real data showing their ROI and time to value…it can resolve every single need and want – and yet you still fail to get a PO.

I had one client tell me point blank – “you sold us on the product, the price and the value – but we are AFRAID of change right now because of the economy.”

I countered with explaining that ‘I understand that fear, most businesses are struggling with inflation and concerns about the recession, but if you look at businesses that excel during economic downturns it is because they automate redundant processes, put their people and clients first and invest in the right technology. Investing in technology doesn’t solve problems on it’s own – you do need to be mindful. So many business leaders panic and think a recession means you stop hiring, stop investing, but in truth you want to get out of this downturn without losing a step you instead need to invest smarter. Putting money into the right technology that can eliminate wasteful spending on data silos and will unite teams to increase productivity – that saves businesses.”

Fear is our biggest competitor now – Fear of the unknown and real issues from inflation. The problem with fear is when we give into its power it becomes a self fulling prophecy. Fear makes us close our minds to possibility and opportunity, which in turn leads to restricting growth and success for business.

As sales consultants we need to understand the client’s why in this current state of ‘now’ – what are their concerns about impacts from the macroeconomic environment…How can you help them address that fear -and align with their why – so you are providing a path from fear – to meaningful planning.

Being a salesperson in an economic shift it is our task to meaningfully challenge our clients fear and help guide them on a path for success – even if it is a bit different than we both originally planned.

  • Can they afford an investment now? If not – what are the reasons? How can you help address those factors?
  • What fears do they have? Focus on HOW you can address them and work to build a meaningful action plan

There is no one size fits all approach here, but understanding the emotional drivers of you clients WHY right now is critical for mutual success. Our economy moves forward through partnerships, growth and innovation. When we allow fear to sideline vision we all lose. On the flip side, we also need to be cognizant that there are real issues (inflation, war in Ukraine, supply chain) – so if those are driving economic instability – how can we work together to solve those points so this downturn is merely a blip on the radar – versus a business ending moment in time.

Please comment below with your thoughts!

About: Adele Lassiter has over fifteen years of Sales Experience from being a ‘creative costume consultant’ for a theatre shop in high school to owning her own talent agency, retail at Big Box before transitioning to tech sales. She developed her FOCUS on HOW method to simplify sales in the moment to guide success across the sales cycle.

She is the author of ‘Solitude Lake’ – a cozy romance written under her pen name – Adele Darcy. Available on Amazon

Add me on LinkedIn – love to connect!

FOCUS on HOW: A system to look at professional growth, sales cycles and team building both in the moment with long term vision.

  • Start with Why
  • Make Data-Driven Decisions
  • Focus on HOW – what can you do in the moment to reach the longterm goal?
  • Turning HOW into Action
  • Closing the Loop

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