You make an excellent presentation and then nothing happens and you wait….and wait… and wait. Your company has a price increase and there is the dreaded “deadline” and your customers take you to the 11th hour and beyond and you wait…and wait…and nothing happens. Your customer assures you they will award your company the contract – it’s only a matter of talking to a few more internal folks on their end – and you wait… and wait…and they go with another company’s solution.
I KNOW you have been in this situation, and more than once. And probably rather recently, too. I know I have.
Sharon Drew Morgen, in her recently released book entitled “Dirty Little Secrets: Why Buyers Can’t Buy And Sellers Can’t Sell And What You Can Do About It” offers some riveting insights into the whole decision making algorithm that prevents us from earning the sales and engineering success that we are capable of achieving.
Sharon Drew Morgen views the sales cycle as the length of time it takes your prospect to figure everything out that they need to figure out so they can make a decision. So how long is your typical call-to-close cycle? Getting longer….. and l…o…n…g…e…r?
My blog is directed at Engineers, too, even though I am using the “S” word: Sales. Don’t think you are exempt from this discussion because you are the “doers” rather than the “sellers.” Guess what, you are part of the solution being offered. Every time you get on the phone with the customer, there is a latent sales opportunity waiting for you to discover. Do you have the tools to uncover unmet needs by determining the underlying processes and systems currently in place?
Sharon Drew Morgen’s book really puts the solution placement – you know, the “stuff” we are all selling – in its proper perspective: somewhere in the middle of the decision making algorithm, if not at the end. It’s not about the sale. It’s about the process. And now that I am talking process, those engineering antennae better be going up!
“One of the hardest things for our buyers to determine is that their status quo isn’t good enough.”– Sharon Drew Morgen, Dirty Little Secrets (italics and bold are mine)
Here’s a secret: sales folks are told to “discover” the client’s problems or unmet needs, typically called “pain.” Then they are supposed to drag prospects over the emotional “pain” coals over and over again until the client cries “Uncle” and sees the light and understands “Your Solution.”
So how do you get to that point? Do you think the prospect is going to jump up from the table, cry “Eureka” and reach for a pen to sign a contract just because your company has the Best Engineers or the Best Product or the Best Solution? I don’t think so. What typically happens is that our Clients and Prospects go in hibernation mode and hunker down while they “think things over.” And over and over. Because “Making a Decision” is equated with “Compromising the Status-Quo.”
The process of identifying the systems currently in place that reinforce and impact the organization’s ability to make a decision – TO CHANGE – are examined in depth in Sharon Drew Morgen’s book. Now, Engineers, if you could converse with your prospects and determine the key stakeholders and the barriers to adoption of new/different/best practices, doesn’t this strategy lend itself to process-mapping? If you developed the skill set to ask specific types of questions in a specific manner, thereby impacting the viability of your solution, wouldn’t you want to dig into things a bit deeper before you run off and design the perfect mousetrap – that nobody ends up buying? (Yes, I know, that was a really long sentence.)
“Until the prospect can recognize the full range of systems elements that live congruently within their culture and find them lacking, an Identified Problem is not seen as something that is ready to be resolved – regardless of the cost to the culture, or the problem it seems to be causing in the system.”– Sharon Drew Morgen, Dirty Little Secrets (italics and bold are mine)
What’s really interesting about Sharon Drew Morgen’s book is that the typical salesperson simply doesn’t “get it.” The skill set she proposes, and the mindset too, is too logical and organized. It flies in the face of the traditional sales paradigm. Sharon Drew Morgen starts the sales process by requiring we do our homework long before we try to place the product or solution. Which is where most engineers like to start.
Gee, when’s the last time you started a project from The Beginning? And I don’t define “The Beginning” as “When The Engineer Is First Notified.” Normally the engineer is brought in somewhere down the road after Sales has built all the “relationships” without the benefit of understanding the systemic processes in the corporate culture that impact The Decision To Buy. And I hate to break the news to the sales folks, but bringing in the engineers too late in the game is one of the biggest complaints engineers have about sales folks.
Sharon Drew Morgen points out that the greatest impediment to change is systemic corporate loyalty to preserving the Status Quo. I mean, who wants to change if you can work around the situation and maintain “the way it’s always been done?” And I hate to break the news to the engineers, but loyalty to preserving the status quo is one of the biggest complaints sales people have about engineers. Sound familiar?
Yeah, this book is a must-read for the sales-engineering continuum. It is process improvement and paradigm shift all rolled up into one. No more status-quo.
Time for a little cross-training and a new way to incorporate process mapping and process improvement into your next project? You just may end up speaking with clients and prospects differently, resulting in more productive outcomes and shortened business development cycles.
What are you waiting for?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.