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Scenarios – The Missing Link in Simplifying B2B Buying and Selling?

by Hank Barnes  |  October 3, 2017  |  3 Comments

There is no doubt about it.  The world of B2B technology is getting more complex.   And that is making both buying and selling in this environment more challenging.  My colleagues from CEB (now Gartner), Nick Toman and Brent Adamson, talk about this all the time and have written books on the subject.  Others, like Dave Brock, have made it a focal point for their business efforts.  It is an issue that needs deep exploration.   And while there are no silver bullets, I believe that there may be a path to improvement.

Source: Unsplash.com

Source: Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

That path is scenarios.   Instead of worrying about features and benefits and capabilities–on both sides of the equation, the focus should be on scenarios.   Guess what, scenarios are just another term for stories.  And you all know how much I believe in stories.  But what exactly do a mean.

For buyers (and there is already plenty of conversation about this approach for RFPs):

  1. Don’t focus your vendor discussions, technology planning, and RFPs around features.   At this point, features are largely unimportant (note I said largely, not entirely).  There are plenty of options for most problems that have great features.
  2. Instead, create a number of scenarios that matter to you.  These could be use cases or day-in-the-life models.   Start the scenario with how things work today and then your ideas of how you’d like them to improve.
  3. When engaging with vendors, ask them to use your scenarios to illustrate how they will help you drive to the improved model.
  4. Allow, and encourage vendors, to provide additional scenarios (you might think of these as Commercial Insights from the Challenger approach) that might further your thinking
  5. In your internal discussions, use the scenarios to provide context and build consensus.  They are much more interesting and enlightening than features.

For vendors:

  1. Put much more emphasis on developing stories that highlight the business scenarios that you address well.
  2. Re-orient your demonstrations and videos to be largely, if not entirely, scenario-driven.  Let your features shine through the scenarios.
  3. Train your sales teams to bring scenarios to the forefront of client discussions–both to uncover the ones they have identified and introduce them to new ones that they should consider.
  4. In some cases (particularly those where you were not actively engaged with the customer during the run up to the RFP), refuse to submit a standard RFP response if the RFP is feature oriented.  Instead, present an alternative response and approach that response using scenarios.

Stories and scenarios won’t cure all the challenges facing tech buyers and sellers.  But they will, I strongly believe, make the conversations more productive and accelerate customers on the path to value (not just the path to purchase).   Data from Gartner Peer Insights reflect that one of the most frequently cited ideas of what buyers would do differently is “improve the evaluation process.”  A move to scenarios as the driver would do just that.

Category: go-to-market  

Tags: b2b-buying  b2b-sales  b2b-selling  buying-process  rfp  sales-process  scenarios  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
4+ years at Gartner
29 years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. He focuses on issues related to positioning, storytelling, the technology customer life cycle, and customer experience. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Scenarios – The Missing Link in Simplifying B2B Buying and Selling?


  1. Dave Brock says:

    Outstanding post Hank! I particularly like the concept of customers creating scenarios important to them-I think sales can create huge value in helping customers think about these scenarios.

  2. Hank, agree with your recommendations on both sides of the table. The missing piece critical to storytelling is curiosity. Getting sellers more curious about their customers is a first step to creating scenarios. Often it is still too easy to rely on the product and its features. Instill more curiosity and the story changes for the better for all involved.

  3. Patrick Wong says:

    Hank, if only all buyers and sellers read your article and take up some of your recommendations, it’ll certainly make it more interesting and productive in B2B engagements.



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