Harvard Business Review: Provocation based Selling for B2B
In these tough times, we find that many businesses are paralyzed due to the economic situation and probably more so due to its uncertainty. Bottom line, as SMB businesses ‘cash is king’ and we’re managing with a tighter-fisted approach than we were a year ago. But, therein lies the rub, because so are our customers. So what can we do to pry budget or discretionary monies away?
Back a few months I came across a great article in the Harvard Business Review by Philip Lay, Todd Hewlin and Geoffrey Moore (yes, the same Moore that wrote Crossing the Chasm); “In a Downturn, Provoke Your Customers”. The essence of the piece is that when times are tough, with tight-fisted spending management, you’ve got to find the business owners perspective on a key ‘pain point’ and present it in a fashion that leaves the business owner with a view that they have to move, make the investment or face certain peril – “provocation-based selling”.
Provocation-based selling helps customers see their competitive challenges in a new light that makes addressing specific painful problems unmistakably urgent.
I’m sure you’re thinking easier said than done as you read this, and as I did when I first read the article. The conventional means of selling your features and functions all too easily happens when on the phone with a prospect, or better yet if you can provide them a consultative or solution approach, again with your solution. The best and most successful salespeople always work to have a good understanding of the customer’s business and ensure the proposed offering or solution is presented from the customer’s perspective. Provocation-based selling really just takes this one step further in that it focuses in on a very specific pain point or requirement, but also looks to create a strong sense of urgency with the business owner leading them to conclude they have to move and investment is required.
The vendor identified a process that was critical for customers in the current business environment, developed a compelling point of view on how it was broken and what that meant in terms of cost, and then connected the problem to a solution that the vendor was offering.
Having read the article, I then stepped back and considered the essence of what was being conveyed and how we might incorporate a small aspect of provocation-based selling in our messaging. In today’s B2B business world the web dominates engagement with the buyer and is the store-front for your products and solutions. It’s the first touch-point with the customer and the web-site continues to be a key point of engagement through the buying cycle for the customer. Providing a marketing automation solution and a powerful means to manage that engagement for the seller, somehow we needed to convey the value of being able to ‘see’ the web visitor, manage the website interaction with their customer, and create a sense of urgency with the seller such that they would make the investment in our solution. How about – Do you know who’s visiting your website? Can you afford not to?
I encourage you to read the HBR article in its entirety as it goes through the tactics and requirements of how to be successful with “provocation-based selling’ and presents the business case for Sybase. Then come back and comment with your thoughts on what Philip Lay, Todd Hewlin and Geoffrey Moore are proposing based on your business or experience.
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About Fred Yee
Fred Yee is the founder and CEO of ActiveConversion, a company that makes online marketing work for industrial companies. Fred was voted as one of the 40 Most Inspiring Leaders in Sales Lead Management in 2017, and his work with ActiveConversion has helped hundreds of businesses succeed online. ActiveConversion is Fred’s third successful company, and he continues to explore the possibilities of technology in industrial sales and marketing.