“I know why people walk away and don’t buy from us, it always comes down to price and product features,” the VP of Sales said to me.
I was hired to do a buyer persona research project for his company, to really understand what goes on inside the heads of their buyers. One of the key insights I've uncovered in these studies is the perceived obstacles that get in the way of buyers moving forward.
And sometimes I can’t resist talking to the sales team ahead of time to get their opinions. Because they always think it comes down to a disadvantage in one of the 4 P’s, especially product and price.
But I know from doing dozens of these buyer persona projects that the real reasons buyers go from being all excited and taking up lots of your time one day, to disappearing from the face of the earth the next, fall into the bucket of the infamous breakup line:
“It’s not you, it’s me.”
I’m not talking about commodity or replacement-type purchases, I’m talking about products that represent a new initiative or direction for the buyer. Yes, the sales people should have done something differently to keep the deal alive, but from the buyer’s perspective, it’s all about factors going on in their own world, not the sales person’s world.
So what are the real reasons? Well, in my studies, I've uncovered obstacles that the buyer was almost too embarrassed about to tell the sales rep, such as:
“I didn’t want to do this without the support of the other department heads, and I couldn’t get them all to see the value.”
“I don’t have people with the right skill sets on my team to take on a project like this.”
“My team is fully allocated on other initiatives, and I was worried that we don’t have the bandwidth to give it the attention it deserves.”
“I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get my end users to adopt the new system.”
See the pattern here? The obstacles so often have to do with the attitudes, politics, or resource constraints within the organization. Or what I like to call “inertia”. So no amount of pricing discounts, and now whizzbang feature could have gotten these folks off the rock.
What else do all these obstacles have in common? There’s no messaging or magic words your marketing or sales enablement folks can come up with that will knock these down. The only thing that can knock these down are the real experiences of your actual customers, told in their own voice, in a genuine and authentic way, about how they overcame the obstacle or why it wasn’t an obstacle for them at all.
Wanna see what I mean? Imagine if for each obstacle above, you had a handful of customer stories, in which people answer the corresponding questions:
“What did you do to get the support and buy-in from the others on your executive team?”
“What skills did you need for this project and how did you pull together the people with these skills?”
“How were you able to take on this initiative without increasing the overall workload of your people?”
“What advice would you have for others who are worried about getting their people to adopt this new system?”
Now imagine if each time your sales rep encountered a prospect who was bought in but dragging their feet because of one of these reasons, they could say, “We have plenty of customers who have overcome this issue...but don’t take my word for it...let me share with you a handful of customers who have told their story about this exact concern you have so you can hear them for yourself.”
Yes, that prospect would now be armed with knowledge of how others overcame their obstacle, and would have much more confidence in their ability to make it work in their company. And you’ve now earned their trust.
After all, we now live in a trust economy, in which people trust peers and colleagues much more than your marketing and sales messages.
Want to know more about why customer success stories are so powerful and how to integrate them into your marketing strategy? Join our free webinar, Win and Retain More Customers by Unleashing Your Customers' Voice, next Thursday, February 16, at 10:00 am PST. I’ll be talking about how authentic customer stories are the last bastion of competitive advantage for B2B firms, why traditional customer proof points turn prospects and customers away, and 5 things you can do today to capture and unleash your customers’ voice. Click here to register!
Jeff Ernst is a recognized thought leader in B2B marketing & sales who has launched, grown, and advised technology companies. His passion is all things customer: customer success, customer insight, customer experience, and customer marketing. He is the co-founder of SlapFive, a web platform that helps companies capture & unleash their customer voice. At Forrester, he was Principal Analyst where he researched & advised companies on buyer behavior & customer engagement before becoming VP of Marketing where he launched the first-ever customer voice & engagement program.