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.
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):
- 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.
- 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.
- When engaging with vendors, ask them to use your scenarios to illustrate how they will help you drive to the improved model.
- 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
- In your internal discussions, use the scenarios to provide context and build consensus. They are much more interesting and enlightening than features.
- Put much more emphasis on developing stories that highlight the business scenarios that you address well.
- Re-orient your demonstrations and videos to be largely, if not entirely, scenario-driven. Let your features shine through the scenarios.
- 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.
- 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.
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