Helping Your Customer Navigate Their Own Organization

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We tend to take for granted that our customers know how to buy. We think they know who should be involved and why. We assume they know how to get approval, how to contract, how to issue an order.

The reality, unless they are in a role where they are buying frequently, they don’t know these things–yet we assume they do.

Too often, our customers get derailed in their buying journey, they want to buy, they need to buy, but they don’t know how to navigate the process and the hurdles put up by their own organizations.

We know the majority of buying journeys end in no decision made. We know this has little to do with selecting a vendor, but aligning the buying team and navigating the buying process.

Customers need our help! If we are going to help them reach a decision, buy, and implement the solution, they need our help. Some things they probably don’t know:

  1. Who else should be involved in the buying process? There are few cases where the person/people we are speaking with are the only people that need be involved. Complex B2B buying journeys, typically impact several parts of the organization. We need to guide our customers and can provide that insight because we see customers going through this process every day. Who else should be involved, what other functions, what parts of the organization might be impacted by the solution?
  2. What questions should they be asking? What things should they be considering in making a decisions? Most of us focus on educating them about our products, but we need to guide them through these issues within their own organization.
  3. What do they need to do to get approval to move forward? Even if they have the money budgeted, there are a number of things they may need to do to get approval to spend the money. They may need to put together a business case to justify the investment. They may have to put together a risk analysis. They may have to put together an implementation plan and negotiate the resources needed to support the implementation.
  4. Related to the previous point, how does this initiative support the corporate strategic objectives. Some years ago, I was working with a client–they won a very large deal, the top executive of the business unit supported the decision and had funded the project. But they had to go to corporate for final approval. The approval was withheld until the team could demonstrate how the initiative contributed to at least one of the top three corporate objectives.
  5. Once they have made the decision, how do they actually buy? How do they move forward? Too often, because they don’t deal with these issues everyday, they don’t know who and how to get people in sourcing/procurement involved. They don’t know how to work with legal and contracting. Or compliance, quality, logistics may need to get involved. While it seems silly, one of my clients almost got derailed. They were selling a very large piece of equipment and no one on the buying team had figured out how to actually get the equipment into their facility (turned out they needed to cut a hole in the roof and lift parts into the building, assembling them inside.).

As compelling as the problem the customer seeks to address is, unless they buy similar solutions, very frequently, they probably don’t know how to buy. They probably don’t know how to navigate the buying journey and all the things they need to get done to actually make a purchase and solve a problem.

Sometimes, however, they think they do. They do this not out of arrogance, but simply not knowing.

We create great value with our customers by helping them navigate the process. When they aren’t involving the right people/organizations, when they aren’t considering the critical issues, when they don’t understand the detailed activities to make it happen–we create great value in helping them navigate the whole process.

We can teach them about what others have done and what they might consider as part of their process. We can help them navigate their own organizations–they are probably very siloed and may not know who else they should be getting involved in the process–but if we are developing the account well, we may know these better than they.

Buying is never easy. But we help our customers succeed, and we help ourselves, when we help our customer navigate the entire buying process.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.

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