Leadership: Mistaking Interest for Commitment (Guest Blog)
I was participating in a board meeting for a young software company and the CEO was asked by an investor how long their average sales cycle lasted. The CEO started to respond, corrected himself several times and finally shared that once he got in front of the right person he could get their eyes to light up in less than 20 minutes. Another of the board members humorously asked if he had enough operations staff to handle all the orders that he would generate. I always recall that situation as it is so representative of many enthusiastic folk I have worked with – they mistake interest in their offering as a commitment to buy.
When a customer does not buy, it is rarely due to a lack of belief in the product offering. The entrepreneur must realize that the prospective buyer does not share their same myopic focus on just that one offering. Most entrepreneurs develop their vision based upon their own knowledge and experience. They can see – perhaps clearer than others – the need for this specific offering that they are providing. They believe in the many benefits and the value that it will deliver to prospective customers. And they are often right. However, in far too many cases, the fire doesn’t light. Their target market stalls or refuses to buy. Yet the entrepreneur’s vision is still burning bright and secure in the viewpoint that the market can truly benefit from the offering. Unfortunately, entrepreneurial myopia limits the entrepreneur to only seeing why a prospect should buy, as opposed to why they don’t! This is the entrepreneur’s curse.
Our research over the last few years has shed significant light upon what happens in the buyer’s world after they – in the words of the story above – have had their eyes lit up by some new offering. Perhaps the most revealing observation is that the prospective buyer understands the new offering and believes in its’ value – and yet does not buy. Why is that?
First, there are many more people involved in any buying decision than in the past; there are many more steps as well. We have to look deeply into the dark corners of the process to see who – or what – is stopping something up. No roadblock is too small! Secondly, buyers are on information overload. There is no shortage of great ideas coming at them promising new ways that they can improve or succeed. It comes as a surprise to many entrepreneurs that they aren’t simply competing against competitive offerings, but are competing for mind share and resources against a vast spectrum of alternatives including the deadliest of all – the status quo. In total, we found nine overall areas that could slow down or stop a customer buying even when they truly understand the offering and the value it would bring their organization. Obviously there are specifics for each situation, but the overall themes are surprisingly consistent.
The successful entrepreneur must switch viewpoints and see revenue generation from the outside-in. They have to broaden their focus, put themselves in the shoes of their prospective customers and see the world as they do. They may even have to put aside their unfailing faith in their offering in order to understand the friction points and roadblocks in each customer’s buying journey.
Martyn Lewis, CEO and Founder
Martyn founded Market-Partners in 1995. In that time, he has worked with numerous selling teams across a broad-range of industries and has developed a reputation as a dynamic speaker and authority on sales and marketing processes. Since Inception in 1995 Market-Partners have been focused on one thing – helping companies gain traction and revenue growth in their target markets based upon an extraordinary understanding of how their customers buy. Market-Partners focuses on companies globally, from start-ups to industry giants.
Martyn acts as an adviser to a number of executives in the high technology industry and is active on several advisory boards and boards of directors. Martyn is the Committee Chair for the Sales Enablement Community of Practice Advisory Board for the American Society for Training and Development, ASTD.