Why Did They Buy?
Here’s a novel idea: Go visit your new customers four or five months after they purchased your software and after they have deployed it into production use. Ask them, “How are you using our software? What applications have you implemented? What value are you receiving?”
What you learn is tremendously important! You’ll take away terrific reference and success stories that will help you make your next sale, expand deployment with existing customers, and even open new markets.
Very Valuable, Very Rare
If you are in sales, wouldn’t it be wonderful to know what goals, objectives, and Critical Business Issues (CBI’s) are faced by the new prospects you engage? Wouldn’t it be delightful to know the underlying Problems or Reasons for these challenges and the Specific Capabilities most likely desired by these prospects to address their CBI’s?
Interviewing current customers to gain exactly this information enables salespeople to address prospects more effectively and to sell with greater precision. This same information helps marketing prepare relevant, focused and accurate materials for these new prospects. It also prepares the presales team to create and deliver more compelling and more effective demonstrations – and reduces the “show-up-and-throw-up” and “harbor cruise” demos typically offered as qualification exercises.
Most companies do not actively collect and leverage “Why did they buy?” information today. While there is a certain amount of “tribal knowledge” gathered for a few key reference accounts, each salesperson largely has only his or her own personal experiences to draw upon.
Interestingly, many vendors complete “win/loss” analyses every quarter – but with the major focus on “why we lost the deal” or “why we won”. Both analyses focus on the mechanics of the deal-making and closing process and neither provides reference or success stories that support future sales.
The sad summary is that most companies simply do not collect this information – and thereby lose very important opportunities.
What Can You Learn?
You can take away two wonderfully useful sets of information:
- Applications your customer has deployed and expected to implement and roll-out.
- Applications your customer has deployed that were unexpected or unanticipated at the time of purchasing your software.
Both sets of information translate into success and reference stories that help sales and marketing people sell into existing and new markets more effectively.
The first group is applications that your customer planned to implement, when they purchased your product, and did indeed roll-out. Regarding these applications, you should ask:
- What application(s) did you deploy?
- Who are the current users and how many?
- What value, in terms of people, time, or money, has been enjoyed by using these applications?
I recommend using Situation Slide format to capture this information:
|Job Title/Industry:||For each individual you interview…|
|Critical Business Issue:||What top level challenge was that individual facing?|
|Problems/Reasons:||What did they have in place before; what “pain” points were there, etc.?|
|Specific Capabilities:||What capabilities, in particular, was this person looking for as a solution?|
|Delta:||What was the value of making the change (best expressed as a tangible number)?|
|Critical Date:||Was there a date or event that drove a need to have a solution place?|
This information then becomes the basis for reference and success stories. While a handful of such stories are typically formalized in collateral or on websites, many more “Informal” Success Stories can be gathered and used anecdotally or as “sanitized” reference stories.
Sales people can use this information when prospecting for new customers and in engaging these new prospects. Presenting a prospect with the success stories of other customers in similar situations generates real interest in learning more. These success stories enable the sales team to earn a measure of credibility with these prospects to move the sales process forward faster.
High-performing sales reps know that prospects are much more interested in learning how your organization has helped others in similar situations solve their business problems, as opposed to being flogged with another interminable corporate overview presentation!
Astute marketing professionals and product managers know that these success stories are the single most important sets of information needed for their go-to-market materials.
How many times have you visited a customer and found that they have implemented something truly terrific and wholly unique? When you do see these applications, don’t you get excited to see the novel ways customers are using your software’s capabilities?
What does this information represent? These new, novel applications provide you with the opportunity to increase deployment in existing customers (up-sell time!). These applications are also the vehicles to enter new markets or address new players in existing markets.
These unexpected applications are truly golden opportunities!
We strongly recommend that companies organize to collect and disseminate these novel reference and success stories to the field and marketing groups – a perfect use for sales force automation tools.
Who Should Collect This Information?
it would be wonderful if sales representatives took the initiative to collect this information. What a pleasant surprise it would be if a sales person visited a customer and said, “I’m not here to sell you anything today; I just would like to better understand how you are using the tools you’ve already licensed from us!”
While truly exceptional sales performers often do have these conversations, most sales staff do not. Their motivation is driven by compensation to achieve quota – which means move on to the next prospect and start working on the next order.
The most effective product managers and marketing staff often take responsibility for visiting existing customers to collect this information. They are a natural hub for publishing and disseminating the success stories they capture.
Sales operations groups are another group well-positioned to gather and broadcast “Why did they buy?” stories. As the implementers and managers of sales force automation and support systems, they can take advantage of the available tools and technologies for archiving and delivering these success stories.
Finally, presales staff are particularly well-positioned to gather this information. Why? Because they are perceived as trustworthy and credible by customers. They are often able to sit side-by-side with their customers to see the applications created and deployed. Customers are generally delighted to share the work they have done.
We recommend that one of the groups above be selected to fulfill the process of proactively visiting customers to collect “Why did they buy?” information. Objectives can easily be defined and progress measured to track the success of the effort.
It’s Why You Are in Business
“Why did they buy?” It is the unique and successful vendor that goes back to their customers to learn why customers did buy their products and, even more importantly, how they are using those products today.
“Why did they buy?” information provides the success and reference stories needed to achieve quarterly quotas, dominate current markets and establish beachheads in new marketplaces. It is, after all, why you are in business!