In the previous blog, we continued our discussion of the critical questions sales management should ask when it comes to closing must-win deals and presented “The Irresistible Value Proposition”, which is the definitive output of selling. In this blog, we’ll explore a topic that does not get nearly enough attention (perhaps we don’t want to know the answer!) and that is “What Is Causing Uncertainty?”
In complex B2B deals, we will almost never have perfect information – and I submit we can’t have perfect information. The reason is that the source for much of our information for winning a deal is to get it directly from the customer. Is it reasonable to assume that the increased number of buying influencers are any more aligned internally that we are? Is it reasonable to assume they know exactly what outcomes they want to achieve (we should be the experts on the outcomes our solutions produce)? In short, the increased number of buying influencers and buying centers on the customer side have added another level of complexity and thus risk.
Add to that, they are the individuals that are often committing large sums to a purchase and are going to be held accountable if it is not successful. It may not feel like it when we are the ones that need to close this must-win deal, but risk and uncertainty is typically magnified even more on their side!
Sources of Uncertainty
Uncertainty for us and the customer can arise from a number of factors:
We may be uncertain we know of all the key buying influencers (much less meet with each of them)
The customer is perhaps uncertain about what outcomes are really important to them or even achievable
We could be uncertain about the alternative we are actually competing against and what it means to the customer
We are often uncertain and not even aligned internally on what a great deal looks like to us if we were to win the business
We may be uncertain about the actual “budget” and approval process (and some customer buying influencers may be just as uncertain, too)
The customer may present conflicting priorities such as wanting the “lowest cost” but will provide “no commitment” to minimum volumes or they want the “total solution” but only have a limited “budget”
As if this list was not enough, with sales cycles on complex B2B deals of 6 to 9 months, we also have to add the element of change, which further adds to risk and uncertainty. Sometimes change happens on our part if we introduce an update, new version or some other improvement in our products and services. Or we have turnover on the part of our selling team. Our short-term focus may change because of a previous poor quarter. Maybe our business strategy changes over this period.
But change is even more challenging when it happens on the customer’s side. Perhaps there has been a change in one or more of the key buying influencers. Or there have been significant changes in the customer’s business, such as they’ve acquired a company or been acquired themselves. Priorities may change after a bad quarterly performance or missed targets. Budgets may be reduced or even frozen.
It could be any or a combination of several of the above that create uncertainty and risk for any must-win deal pursuit. Managing uncertainty and reducing risk (especially the risk of loss) are becoming fixtures in selling complex B2B deals – and this is a topic that does not get nearly enough attention. We simply can’t afford to ignore it and fortunately, we don’t have to.
In the next blog in this series, we will show how to manage uncertainty, reduce risk and answer the question “Can we make it easier for the Customer to buy?” And by that I mean they will buy from us. After all, none of us likes to be sold to.