Often it is said that when selling to corporate customers – as opposed to consumers – you cannot create needs and that you can only fulfill existing needs. In principle, I agree completely: your customer won’t invest large amounts of money without a real identified business need.
Why Change the Status Quo?
All businesses and business decision-makers have, however, things that could be done better, but which currently do not enter their agenda – for one reason or another. So that a decision maker would see it necessary to do something about them and thus change the status quo, someone must convince him about why the change is not only very useful, but necessary and even unavoidable.
Assemble a Valuable Package
Since the option “do nothing” is a very strong competitor, the seller is often unable to get even a decent sales project up and running, if his solution benefits only one person, department or unit within the customer company. But if the seller is able to assemble a solution package that addresses the company’s various stakeholders’ ‘hidden’ problems, the value of which clearly exceeds the pain of changing the status quo and the cost of the solution, the chances of a successful sales project improve considerably.
Perhaps a Small Provocation Is Called for?
It’s even better if your company is able to demonstrate to its customers a problem, which they had not yet come to think of themselves at all, but which simply cannot be ignored. You must be able to identify a business critical process and show the customer how and why this process is defective and what it’s costing the customer. After that you still need to be able connect this problem to your company’s offering.
The key point is to introduce a new perspective and way of thinking and raise the customers’s consciousness. This is a big part of the value of a company can offer its customers even before the customers have bought anything from you. And I bet that the customer is also happy to give his business to a seller who has helped him see a critical problem that no other competitor has succeeded in uncovering.
Philip Lay, Todd Hewlin and Geoffrey Moore wrote an article in Harvard Business Review called “In a Down Turn, Provoke Your Customers“, where they presented an example of this kind approach by Sybase, who succeeded in 2008 in finding new business from the financial sector:
Financial institutions tended to have separate risk-management systems for credit cards, mortgages, commercial lending, equity investment products, fixed income, commodities, and derivatives. Sybase’s message was that a risk-management failure in one area (say, home mortgages) would have direct consequences for the risk exposures in other areas (for example, collateralized debt obligations and other derivatives), so companies had to find a way to bring their risk positions together in a single view. By revealing the scale of the threat and the opportunity, Sybase could sell its Risk Analytics Platform (RAP), a new tool for integrating risk management, to clients who had not previously been troubled by the lack of one.
In summary, selling when the customer is not prepared to buy anything and “waking up” a need in the customer may be possible – when the company and the seller knows what they are doing. And most decision-makers certainly appreciate new perspectives and ideas to develop their business.