Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Managing your customer's trough of despair

How are you managing your customer's "trough of despair"?

...or disillusionment, as Gartner occasionally calls it.

I first experienced a trough of despair two weeks into ownership of a 1995 Range Rover County LWB. With its four liter V8 engine, two and a half ton weight and its four wheel drive system, it was substantially less fuel efficient than the car it replaced, an '88 Volvo 740 turbo wagon.

The first time I filled the Rover's tank, I was still excited about the purchase. I had my expedition vest on and was planning a trip through the Sahara (just kidding!) so I didn't notice the dismal fuel economy.

The second time I filled the tank however, I did the math. Gulp. 12 miles per gallon, less than half that of the thrifty Volvo. Substantially less.

Boom...I landed firmly in the trough of despair...or maybe feeling buyer's remorse. I wasn't feeling good about my purchase and I wasn't sure that things were going to get better.

Many, perhaps most enterprise buyers experience a similar trough of despair. They trust the sales rep and the vendor team saying that "sure, everything will work, no customizations necessary, no integrations or APIs will break."


The next six months the buyer struggles to make sense of the new screens, to modify their workflow to match that of the system, to fix the integrations, etc, while cursing the rep.'s the secret. Most buyers know about the trough of despair, yet they willingly believe that this time it will be different.

Most sales people aren't willing to discuss what happens after the customer says "yes", what issues they'll encounter in implementation, the challenges, the change management necessary.

If you are well versed in how your customers actually use your product, and talk them through the challenges and change management necessary, you've accomplished two things:

  • First, you've derisked the purchase for them. You've made it more likely for them to choose you over the other sales people who aren't willing to acknowledge the challenges faced in implementation. And perception of *risk* is the most important factor in the buyer decision making process, even though they will tell you otherwise.
  • Second, you've helped them experience faster time to value. With your coaching, they will move through the trough of despair more quickly and get to the value that your platform actually can provide.

You've won not only their business but also their trust.

And you can take that to the bank.







Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Account planning as an ongoing process

When I joined an elite field enablement team at Oracle almost fifteen years ago, we formalized a facilitated account planning process, both for enterprise and key accounts. However, when sales leadership and corporate program management requested that account plans be submitted and tracked on a quarterly basis, we pushed back hard.

Some considered account planning as an opportunity to inventory opportunities. Others viewed it as a way of checking in on the account team, without getting too involved. A successful completion of the process would result in a planning document being filed in a drawer somewhere.

Few thought of it as a co-creation and alignment process, one that is a nearly continuous mix of discovery, conversation, hypothesis building/testing, and value creation.

With formally trained facilitators, good supporting material (corporate backgrounder, footprint and SOW analysis, comps, etc.), the buy-in from an increasing number of sales teams, and a value selling mindset, we won over the skeptics. We demonstrated that an effective, ongoing account planning process drives deeper customer engagement, more customer intimacy, higher revenues and profitability and higher lifetime customer value.

We had the people and process part sorted. But...we were struggling with the documentation, the capture of tribal knowledge and the management of action items for the teams. PowerPoint just didn't cut it, nor did Revegy.

When Ulrik Monberg
encountered similar challenges in account planning processes, he founded ARPEDIO to provide an advanced account planning/account-based selling platform.

Recently Ulrik
, CEO of ARPEDIO and I spent some time on the Thoughts on Selling podcast discussing account planning and account-based selling best practices. The ARPEDIO team then published an article based on our conversation. The first is an easy and interesting listen; the second is a useful written discussion of the key topics.

What are you doing to ensure the effectiveness of your account planning activities?

If you'd like help ensuring success this year please reach out for an initial conversation.







Tuesday, January 9, 2024

244 Selling days left in 2024

Savvy sales leaders understand the rhythm of selling in a calendar the first quarter (after territories and quotas are communicated to the field), sales people should be researching and prioritizing their accounts and planning their engagements.

In the second quarter opportunities should be developed, discovery conducted and value established. For larger accounts, account planning should be planned and held (with the customer's active participation. Your customers do attend your account planning sessions, right?)

In the third opportunities should be de-risked and customer commitments nailed down. Account planning should be continued. Executive briefings should be planned and hosted. the fourth quarter, deals should be closed.

There's only three challenges with this approach.

First, that's a lot of "shoulds."

With a formal structure in place, at the field level, and effective process facilitation, these important activities will happen, with effectiveness and impact.

Second, customers don't subscribe to the sales calendar...they have their own rhythm of business, whether their fiscal year ends in June, they have a fourth quarter freeze, or they simply have needs that aren't calendar bound.

Third, sales teams have a constant inflow and outflow of talent that requires retraining, new enablement and learning facilitation.

How much of this are you leaving to chance? Are you counting on a manager named Should to ensure the success of your team through the course of the year?

How did that work out for you last year?

What are you doing to ensure that these actions actually happen, with expediency and effectiveness?

If you'd like help ensuring success this year please reach out for an initial conversation.