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Business decisions in stable market environments often come down to straight business case decisions. It is either good enough or it is not. But in more dynamic markets the buyers’ predictions of expected outcomes shape the decisions. This different way of making decisions changes the game for sales professionals. Here are 4 steps help you understand how you can coach your clients based on their predictions.
Current mainstream predictions
Client’ predictions of business outcomes stem from mainstream predictions about the future. The client predictions shaping a specific procurement process is a mix. Expect generic high level predictions as well as more specific predictions. Your goal is to understand your client’s predictions and expected business outcomes. Then you have a good picture of what shape their decisions.
A great conversation to have with your client is to go through what their predictions are for a given area. Most articulations of B2B client needs reflect pains, gains and requirements. Exciting when you have the answer but it is easy to miss what is shaping the client decisions process when focused on WHAT rather than WHY.
It is not advisable to challenge your client’s predictions upfront. But you still have potential to work with in dynamic markets where predictions change with changes in the market.
Underlying ideas and assumptions steer current predictions
Your clients’ predictions come from ideas and assumptions about the future. When you understand the predictions the next exercise is to drill down into ideas and assumptions behind them. When you get down to the level of ideas and assumptions you understand not just need but the basis for their decisions.
The underlying ideas and assumptions is where you can influence your clients’ predictions. Predictions are full of beliefs and feelings but the ideas and assumptions are fact based. Aim to be specific when defining the ideas and assumptions, and if possible quantify the assumptions. The fact base is instrumental when aspiring to change client predictions. It is unlikely to see changes in clients’ predictions if underlying ideas and assumptions remain the same.
Shortcomings with current ideas assumptions
In fast moving markets the underlying ideas and assumptions about the future change fast. This represents an opportunity to point out shortcomings with existing assumptions. Shortcomings driven by changes in the market are hard to challenge. The best way to challenge a prediction that is working against you is to focus on the changes in underlying assumptions.
Alternative predictions for superior results
Your biggest contribution in influencing a different client direction relate to their predictions. When you can change their predictions you have real influence over the decision. . A prediction that generates a better positive outcome or a less negative outcome has high value to your client. The flow from an existing prediction, via existing and new assumptions to a new prediction you is a magic journey. On this route you take a taken an active role in influencing your client’s decision.
Beyond understanding predictions are and outcomes they you need to prioritize them. Not all will carry the same weight in your client’s decision and just a handful stand out as the most important ones. When you have reached this stage you have a view as good as your client on how they will take decisions.
Questions for you and your team to work with
- Which predictions steer your client’s decisions – a factor of crucial importance in B2B decisions in dynamic markets
- Which predictions have positive business outcomes for your clients – the main drivers for the opportunity
- Which predictions have negative business outcomes for your clients – a number of predictions are likely associated with negative outcomes
- What is the order of importance for the identified predictions – order is critical and no more than 3-5 influence final decisions
- Is the sum the outcome for all predictions positive or negative – Must be positive for pursuit to move towards a sell.
Additional reading suggestions
- Top 10 predictions for 1015 and beyond: Digital business is driving ‘Big Change’ [BLOGPOST] – by Gartner
- Making good decisions without predictions: Robust decision making for planning under deep uncertainty [BLOGPOST] – by Rand