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The Story We Don’t Tell – But Should

by Hank Barnes  |  April 9, 2019  |  1 Comment

My last couple of posts have focused on the safe choice and the preference to “not be wrong” (which is often perceived as the safe choice).  As I continue to think about this and dive into some upcoming Gartner research on tech buying, something is becoming more and more apparent (or at least it is occupying the front of my brain).

We (the proverbial we of anyone selling tech products and services) are often relentlessly positive with our customers and prospects, discussing the “art of the possible” and the wondrous business outcomes that the customer can achieve with our help.   If we are smart, we acknowledge their current situation before presenting our picture of the future.

All of this is important.  But there is another story we should be telling.  Maybe not on your home page, but as part of your sales engagements.  Early in those sales engagements.

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

That is the story of what could go wrong–a pre-mortem (just search for pre-mortem or premortem).  There has been lots of recent dialog and posts on the idea (here is one example) including looking at things both positively and negatively, but it is often suggested to project teams.   I’m suggesting vendors should take the lead on pre-mortems of what could go wrong–for their own solutions.)

That story needs to be very open—the customer may have issues and the vendor may have them.   We all know this by now.   Why do we pretend problems don’t happen?

But the story doesn’t end with what could go wrong.  It includes ideas for how to deal with those issues; how to recognize when the problems may be coming; and how to address not only the issues but the ramifications.

This story should be based on reality–the stories of other customers and other situations.   Build confidence in the buying team that issues can be overcome.   Be the vendor that is not only ambitious, but also authentic.   The fear of being wrong; the fear of mistakes paralyzes many people.  It delays buying decisions, or results in outright project cancellations.  You may have even painted a picture of the “pain of same”, but the “personal fear of failure” often wins out.

By bringing these concerns forward, by showing empathy, you might be a force of positive change, accelerating decisions, results, and building confidence.

Stop pretending everything is perfect–in our world and the customer’s world.

I suspect you and your customers will find it refreshing–and more productive.  Are any of you telling that story?

Category: go-to-market  

Tags: b2b-buying  complexity  confidence  pre-mortem  problems  storytelling  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. His research efforts focus on understanding the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. He then applies that research to explore the implications on vendor strategies, supporting the efforts of product marketing, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and CEOs. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on The Story We Don’t Tell – But Should


  1. Tom Austin says:

    What a refreshing concept! Be wary of people who will undercut your honesty.



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