Engaging With Executive Buyers – Why We Need A GoToCustomer Approach

Do we really need a GoToCustomer approach, do we really need to design our selling systems consequently from the outside to the inside?
“Does it really matter to the customer what approach you use?” was one of the questions that occurred in one of the LinkedIn sales enablement groups, inspired by one of my recent blog posts. I answered, yes, I do believe that it matters and I will write a blog post on that topic.

The other day, I had a sales conversation with a small vendor focused on messaging and sales trainings. As a sales enablement executive, I was of course interested in having a first call. So, I had a call with the company’s founder and a sales person.
Here is what happened:

After nice initial hellos, we started. The founder said, he would like to show me “only a few slides” on the company and their services. Why not, they will hopefully practice what they preach, I thought. So, I agreed. But presenting “only a few slides” turned out to be an overkill of many slides and a twenty minutes (!) monologue about the vendor, the company, their services and their references.
I interrupted once, because the references he presented were of no relevance and of no value for our business. Unfortunately, my intervention didn’t bother him. Apparently the sales person wasn’t allowed to say anything. Instead, the founder continued with his pitch and mentioned how awesome it would be to have someone with my role on the phone.
What would you say? Horrible or hilarious or both?
Inside-out pushing continued. Listening didn’t happen. Questioning was apparently out of their scope.

I checked my watch, decided to focus on inhaling and exhaling. I would have a very hard stop…  In parallel, I was wondering why they didn’t try to make this call a success – to make it valuable for me ? Then, the person stopped talking after more than twenty minutes and asked me (the first question!) if these services were valuable for me?

Now that’s funny. This person didn’t ask me a single question on our challenges, goals and initiatives, pushed his general broadcast messages to me without knowing my specific role and responsibility. Of course, I couldn’t give him a positive feedback, because I couldn’t recognize any value for my specific business challenges. Not that he accepted that statement, he asked for a follow-up. Less politely than before, I said: “What kind of a follow-up for what reason?”

Here is a note to all vendors of trainings, coachings and sales consultants:
I really love working with you, especially if you are as passionate as I am regarding how to create more value, how to increase performance, how to make the sales profession a value creating discipline for our customers. And I love to challenge my views and your views in order to create the best approach for a certain challenge. BUT please understand this:
If you don’t practice what you preach, why should I or anybody else believe in your services?
We all know that there are no silver bullets and we all know that “one size fits all approaches” don’t work in our complex world. To make a call valuable for us executive buyers, you should not only be prepared regarding our roles and responsibilities, you should also be able to map your services to our specific challenges. It’s an effort of translation, to show us not only what your services do but what they could mean for us in terms of our business outcomes.  It’s as simple as that.

Everything happens for a reason: We can learn a lot from that call:

  • The design point of that pitch was the vendor’s own portfolio, not the prospect in his/her specific situation. I was feeling pushed.
  • The content they shared was focused on what the services were all about and what they would do, but not what they could mean in terms of business outcomes.
  • These vendor’s services should be sold using references, which is actually a good idea, if the references are relevant to the prospect, which was not the case.
  • The customer’s problem solving journey or buying cycle was not considered, not prepared and not addressed with questions.
  • Value regarding my role and responsibility: The call didn’t give me the feeling, that they wanted to create specific value regarding my specific role and challenges. Instead, I had the feeling, they wanted to sell me their stuff.

What we learn here is that a static approach from the inside to the outside, based on the vendor’s portfolio mapped to an unspecified prospect, which was in that case an executive buyer, is not successful at all. These are all characteristics of a classical GoToMarket approach, with many above mentioned vendor-internal design points.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we don’t need GoToMarket models. We need them to derive a portfolio of services and products based on a vendor’s unique capabilities, to define standardized modules, to design messages for a broad audience and for general buyer roles. But a GoToMarket model isn’t meant to address specific selling situations regarding different roles and different stages along the customer’s journey. But that’s exactly why we need a GoToCustomer approach.
A prospecting call or any other customer meeting should be designed for specific buyer roles and responsibilities and for a certain stage along their customer’s journey. Based on these customer design points, the value messages can be tailored and the vendor’s capabilities can be mapped to their specific challenges. That’s what a GoToCustomer approach is all about. Making the customer the design point will simplify your entire selling system instead of being focused on several internal design points.
Then, define simple sales milestones which are mapped to the customer’s journey, for instance:

  • Get appropriate access
  • Having successful meetings with stakeholders
  • Create a shared vision of success
  • Create a win/win business case, create proposal

Every thousand miles journey starts with one step in the right direction. Why not taking this one?
These six questions cover relevance, context and timeliness. Some can be answered, others might lead to the right questions on the call:

  • What could be the prospect’s problem/challenge/pain point?
  • How does the prospect might want to move forward?
  • Who could be the executive stakeholder and who could be impacted stakeholders?
  • Why could that be a challenge, right now?
  • When should the problem be solved? Think about technology and business impact!
  • Where is the prospect along his own journey? Brainstorming or before making a decision?

That’s the first phase, MODEL. Then, think about how to MAP your services and capabilities to this “modeled” situation – and then design your value messages, MATCH!

Successful selling!

Interested in research on that topic?
Here is an interesting document from Forrester Research.



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