Why? Why did a prospect decide to buy from one vendor instead of another? Tools like Salesforce can give you insights into the sequence of meetings, emails, and phone calls between your sales team and a prospect. It can even record the reason why a deal was marked closed-won versus closed-lost (Budget, Price, etc.) Yet, CRM tools cannot tell you why a prospect behaved the way they did and why they made the decision that they did. Qualitative interviews can provide your sales and marketing teams with unparalleled insights that can help improve your win rates and avoid lost deals.
In this article, we will discuss what your Salesforce CRM data won’t tell you. Specifically, we’ll cover:
- The Process They Used to Make Their Decision
- Why Did They Choose The Winning Vendor?
- What They Thought of Sales Team and Their Process
- The Need for Qualitative Win-Loss Interviews
The pandemic fundamentally changed the buying process for software solutions. In 2021, Gartner described the new buying process:
Forrester found that 63% of purchases have more than four people involved, up from 47% in 2017. Additionally, they found that the number of buying interactions during the pandemic jumped from 17 to 27! The number of buying interactions reflects one individual’s buying journey to obtain information about competing offerings or providers. In the total number, we include self-guided interactions (mostly done by research via the internet) and personal interactions, which refer to a conversation with a person, from either a provider company or third party. Almost all of these conversations took place virtually.
A typical Salesforce.com reason code for a closed-won or closed-lost deal is not going to give you the full story about the process a customer used to purchase a solution. B2B software buying is now a team sport.
Simplistic closed-won or closed-lost reason codes simply do not provide the insights you need to understand why a customer chose the winning buyer. Bidders for most Federal procurement processes in the United States are entitled to a post-award briefing where the procuring agency explains exactly why they chose the winning bid. Unfortunately, post-award briefings are the exception, not the rule in B2B software.
Experience has shown that it is not just adherence to requirements that determine who wins a particular deal. Many factors including price, packaging, commercial terms, and certifications (SOC 2, ISO/IEC 27001, etc.) come into play. Vendors must dig deep to understand a customer’s true decision-making process.
One IaaS vendor won one of the largest managed services contract in their industry. They were considered to be the #3 vendor in the market, the top two vendors were significantly larger and had more experience in handling large-scale enterprises. After they won, the vendor conducted a series of post-decision interviews with the customer to learn why they won. They learned that the customer considered the various vendors’ offerings to be roughly equivalent. What swung the deal their way were service level guarantees they included in their proposal, which were backed by real, significant financial penalties. SLAs were common in this industry, but attaching real significant financial penalties was not. The vendor was able to capitalize on this for several quarters. Eventually, the competition started matching these terms, but the vendor was able to exploit their advantage for quite a while.
Another thing that is hard to learn from your basic CRM data is what a customer thought about your sales team and sales process. These perceptions are critical and you may never know why your firm was excluded from a deal. Recently, a large B2B tech company conducted an RFP. In the early stages of the process, they surveyed potential vendors to determine who to include in the RFP. One vendor, who was considered to be a leader in the market was excluded from the process specifically because of their behavior during this initial survey process. They insisted on
the process and limited what information they shared until they got personal access to the economic buyer. The potential customer felt that if they were so hard to deal with during these exploratory steps, they could not be a long-term effective partner. The ultimate winner of the RFP took exactly the opposite approach.
Discovery Resistance is a term coined by Mike Bosworth, the creator of the successful Solution Selling methodology. Mike noted that when calling on targeted buyers, buyers who should be interested in what they have to offer, these buyers are resisting their efforts to get them to open up and discuss the difficulties of their current situations. Your standard sales playbook may inadvertently fail to overcome discovery resistance. It is very unlikely that you can learn this just from data in your CRM/SFA system.
To gain a full understanding of your buyers and their decision-making process you should conduct qualitative interviews with participants in recent sales cycles. Qualitative interviews are usually 30-minute interviews that focus on 6 to 8 open-ended questions. These interviews are recorded and transcribed. The results are then shared with the whole organization. Often, a small incentive like a $50 gift card is used to encourage customers to participate. The interviews are often conducted by an independent third party, so the interviewees are comfortable offering frank opinions about their experiences.
A critical aspect of the interview process is asking why a customer believes certain things they say. Surveys and checklists are one way to get customer feedback, but they lack the ability to follow up on interesting statements. The real value of using experienced interviewers is that they can follow up and explore why a customer believes specific things. Often this is the most valuable outcome of the interviews.
Tools like Salesforce help describe what has happened on a particular deal. Unfortunately, they rarely describe why a customer or prospect made the decisions that they did. Qualitative interviews with participants in sales cycles can help you discover the detailed process a customer used to make their decision, the criteria they actually used, and what they really thought about your sales team and sales process.
Want to know more? Here’s what we have to offer.