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.