Lesson learned from an innovative solution sale that went sour

It is common for B2B companies to introduce new products, services or innovations in the market which answer a business problem. The sale of such a novelty often goes through the technical decision-maker, which, with some additional effort, will win over the economic decision-maker. Although essential in the sales or purchase process, several other stakeholders are taken for granted, ignored or worse, simply unknown. Missing out on a sale because of a blind spot should never occur… Lesson learned the hard way from a business having missed a sale due to a blind spot.

« Build it and they will come… »

Companies typically have lived out this situation. At the launch of their product or service, they are eager to make sales, often to early adopters (innovators) willing to take the risk of buying an inventive solution that can meet their needs, which have not yet been met by what is already on the market.

Like most Quebec companies, you market your new offer after having fully developed the said solution.  This often reflects your engineer or developer training, which naturally drives you to market your solution only when it is fully finished, at least, meets your minimum expectations.

You are also a hands-on entrepreneur and have the tendency to make the first sales yourself. Naturally, your network and contacts will be involved, as they should be. Selling to a Director or an Executive with a problem to which your solution could be the answer, is your target. How to do this is among other things, the subject of a blog post on the emotional aspect of a purchase decision, but you end up finding the mechanics of sales. Here begins the “cycle of complex sales.”

The downfall

Like any good technical entrepreneur, after many meetings, you get your prospect to buy in your offer. In the end, all of the stakeholders met are in line with the decision to go ahead with your solution. It’s practically signed! All that remains is to obtain the opinion of one last player, who so far, has been absent from the decision-making process, say, the IT department. A mere formality, is it not?

You reassure yourself because the user faces a glaring problem and the decision makers are on your side. You might worry, thinking over the fact that your offer is indeed something new, with some risks or which hasn’t been sold several times already. Will you have to invest in a benchmark or a pilot project for your prospect? But see, IT is at the service of the company and your solution is not a significant risk… And, you would be willing to do anything to sign a first customer with this new product and service, right?

Then silence… your prospect does not keep in touch with you or, your customer relationship changes abruptly. You get the news that the project is cancelled! Every indication that you had, led you to believe that it was in your pocket but, this last key player simply said ‘no’ and the decision is final. Internal policies related to technology, work procedures, budgets, etc. are being used to explain the refusal. Even your prospect is disappointed with the turn of events but, such is the outcome. You have not come to terms with having omitted the involvement of this party’s implication with the decision, and you were not prepared.

The lesson

This story is not an isolated case. It is one of several startup and mature companies who, by eagerness or lack of analysis before implementing the market, have been blinded to the identification of one of the involved parties in the purchasing process. The omission of their very involvement early in the process is often fatal.

Before you jump into the introduction of a new product or service on the market, do your homework when it comes to the purchasing process. Confirm your intuition about the role of different stakeholders, such as IT people, who are often taken for granted in businesses. Who knows what the power and influence is of these groups to say “no.” This way, you will avoid the pitfalls of sales not coming in at the end of the process.

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