Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Day 67: How Do You Make Decisions?

On Monday I got a call from a prospect telling me that we had lost the deal.

I've gotten used to having these conversations in the past year as percentages in sales are more less like free throw shooting and more like batting averages. It's good to learn early on the kind of game you're playing.

The percentages don't tell the whole story though. My stat line can show 1 for 3, but the one hit could be a single and the other two could range anywhere from a strike out to a pop fly that drifted all the way to the center left field wall only to be snatched by a leaping Ken Griffey, Jr. in his heyday.

This loss the other day felt more like that than a strike out. We were so close and I thought that the company would be a great fit as one of Highland's clients. But, alas, it wasn't meant to be and it just means I'll be back up to bat again soon.

Thankfully, I got a lot of great feedback from the person who managed both the buying process and now the project itself. I asked what the decision really came down to for them because I of course want to learn what we can do to improve as a sales organization.

After a good bit of conversation, he said that it really boiled down to the sales team seeing our competitor's product as superior to ours (when I say "our product" I'm referring the our vendor's product that we resell). When I prodded a bit further, asking about functionality and such, he said that everyone agreed that both products could deliver what they needed. So I asked what the real difference was.

Actually, I asked, "Is this really about perception? That they believe the other product is better than ours?"

"Yeah, I guess so," was pretty much his answer.

Our competitor's product is the market leader; we are a disruptor. Their product has been around longer and has definitely lead in innovation. Their name is everywhere, including on taxis in Chicago; you'd be hard-pressed to find ours easily without talking to someone first.

But the difference I notice the most, the one that stands out head and shoulders above everything else: they appeal to the emotions more effectively than any of their competitors. I believe that while they have great technology, they understood a long time ago that people don't make purely rational decisions. Perhaps IT teams get the closest to that, but even in that rationalism, there's emotion undergirding it due to connections to certain technological philosophies and what not.

I wrote about this a while back. Former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, came out with a book a few years ago after he had to reevaluate his entire economic theory. Up until 2008, he believed that rationality and self-interest would win the day in economics, but after the crash he realized that wasn't so. He saw that we are driven so much more by our emotion -- and specifically fear -- than by our rationality.

As buyers, we are emotionally connected to our brands and products. It goes without saying that the company that does this best out of all is Apple. Even though the Apple Watch doesn't seem to make a ton of rational sense right now, those commercials they have running are genius. Before the watch was released, the commercials were all about feature functions; but now, with the watch out they show how you can experience them through the full range of emotions. And if you look at the YouTube views and compare between the feature functionality commercial vs. the new ones, you will see what appeals more.

Buyers, whether in business or in everyday life, buy the same way. There may be other considerations for a business -- other people involved in the decision making process, bigger budgets, an executive team or board, etc. -- but at the end of the day they will buy what is wanted. We want the name brand goods, the "Cadillac" of technology; we want to look as cool as can be with our business "stuff" just like we wanted with our high school "stuff." Emotions reign supreme.

Truth be told: I really don't want this to be true. That's why I love the commercials so much. I want to stand in proud mockery of all the empty promises technology makes about changing the world, appealing directly to our emotion.

But then I have to eat humble pie. My life has been totally turned upside down by technology. Yours has too. And the world has changed, for better or worse, because of it as well. The appeal to emotion when it comes to technology decisions isn't as far of a stretch as I think.

In fact, I think it's the place where we need to begin.

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