After closing the biggest deal in their history – seriously, this was the kind of deal that most companies dream of but think can’t be landed – a 20-year start-up recently asked if we could make a Win-Loss call to find out why the whale had chosen them over the so-called leaders in the space.
Like most companies, our client had a pretty clear picture in their minds as to why Buyers choose to buy from them. Buyers choose them because of their price, their service, and of course, because of their tech. And oh what tech! Best in the space, innovating where no one else innovates. Cloud! Modular architecture! SaaS, oh yeah! Plus the leaders in the space are stagnant, having been picked up by larger companies and fallen out of relevancy with their own leadership.
The RFP and Telling the Story
When The Whale came knocking, our client started to wonder about how they should frame their offering to this new type of Buyer. Specifically, they wanted to show that they could hold their own against the market leaders. Inevitably, our client reaches for what they think The Whale wants to hear: price, service, and their innovative, leading-edge tech. Proposals are drafted, slide decks are crafted and presentation notes are read and re-read; all in preparation for a series of dramatic escalating pitches that seem to resonate more and more with The Whale. All the while, our clients is thinking that finally, finally a whale is viewing them as they view themselves: strong, proud and capable of playing in the same league as the leaders.
But What If That’s Not the Story They’re Buying?
After the deal closed we got to work. In successive calls we spoke with the Buyers, the Users and the procurement team. Each interviewee was asked the same set of questions but crucially they were all asked why they bought from our client. Imagine our client’s surprise when we explained to them that not one of the interviewees said price, service or even that sweet, sweet tech. Not one. Here they had landed quite possibly the biggest deal that they would ever land and not one of the stories they had pitched had meant anything to The Whale.
But one deal does not a trend make, so we asked our client if we could go out further into their market for validation. Although it doesn’t always, this time the trend held. Buyers were buying for reasons the team had not anticipated and were not speaking to in their deals and in their promotional materials.
Talk to your Buyers, They’ll Tell You Why They Buy From You
This is a common issue within companies today. We all build up ideas of what we think our Buyers want and why they buy from us. We even build up complexes for why Buyers choose the competition. We worry that our price is too high or too low, that our SLAs don’t stand up to the competition, or that we’re missing that all-important product feature that would make the difference between getting the business or not. Or whatever.
But the truth is, none of those built-up ideas matter unless you test them. They really doesn’t. What matters is what you have learned from your Buyers by talking with them. Worried that your price is too high? Ask your Buyer. Concerned that your service level doesn’t meet or beat expectations? Ask your Buyer. Bloating your product with features to meet a perceived demand? Ask your Buyer. They want to tell you how they feel. They just need to be given the proper forum.
So Why Did They Buy?
In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense. Why do Whale Buyers choose smaller, pluckier teams over big incumbents? Why their size, of course. With a small team you can innovate, change, pivot. You can make things happen quickly. You have access to leadership and can push when you need to. A whale will always have the ear of a small team. And add to that the fact that our client’s CEO has more passion for the space than anyone else in the space and you have a potent recipe for and overnight success that was 20 years in the making.
Message Change Time!
Our client really do Win because of their small size, nimble attitude, and passionate leadership. Previously, they had thought that their size was a handicap, impeding their ability to earn business over the competition. Now they shout about it from the mountaintops! Instead of saying the same things to the market as the competition and instead of touting similar enough pricing, service and tech to the market, now they talk size. It’s their proven competitive advantage. And all it took was The Whale to help them think differently.