SiriusDecisions, Forrester, and others note that buyers have often completed 67% of their buying journey before engaging with live sellers. This has resulted in an assumption (by both buyers and vendors) that buyers know all about vendor offerings before any buyer-seller conversations take place.
This is incorrect!
Buyers know a lot – and certainly a lot more than they did 20 years ago – but they don’t know what they don’t know.
Buyers gather information from websites and, to a lesser degree, from peers. Website information (and marketing demos) tend to be feature/advantage statement oriented, but rarely share specific or particularly novel capabilities – and functionality is generally described at a moderately high level.
Further, buyers’ vision of solution possibilities is partly bounded by their past and current experiences. They tend to think in terms of what is hard to do using their current systems and have only a limited view of what might be missing. It is much harder to visualize something entirely new than a fix to one’s existing problem.
Vendors, on the other hand, typically have a much richer picture of the possibilities and options available. And vendor product teams are constantly releasing new functionality that may represent dramatic breakthroughs or capabilities enabling solutions that are entirely new.
Additionally, vendors have typically seen many implementations of their offerings – dozens or hundreds – and have the advantage of the experience represented in these implementations and corresponding use cases.
Buyers, conversely, are often limited to their first-hand experiences – an “N” of one. For example, a buyer’s current system lacks alerting functionality – and the buyer thinks, “I need some way to alert our team when xxx takes place.” What the buyer doesn’t know is that several vendors offer predictive alerting, based on trends and/or AI, that can generate alerts well before a threshold is reached, enabling buyers to take action before it becomes a problem. They’ve never encountered this capability before and never saw it in their online exploration.
Buyers don’t know what they don’t know…
This means that Vision Generation Demos and Discovery conversations are often the first (and sometimes the only) opportunities to expand or reengineer buyer vision of solution possibilities. Accordingly, one of our jobs in these early conversations is to seek to understand both what the buyer already knows about our offerings – and what they don’t know.
We need to be prepared to use Biased Questions to (gently, but firmly!) introduce capabilities that buyers are unaware of, to build vision that may go far beyond the 67% starting point!