You look at your prospect’s current solution. It may not be very efficient or competitive, but it’s theirs. They invested in it. They understand it. And, some of the people you’ll be presenting to were probably responsible for creating it – or at least choosing it. Now what? You know it isn’t a great solution, but how do you tell them that?
For starters, don’t make this about their solution.
Yes, it’s an inadequate solution. It may even be one of those ridiculously bad, “what-were-they-thinking” solutions. But don’t assume the worst. Your prospect’s team probably made the best decision they could with the information they had. It might have even been the right decision at the time. So, don’t trash it. Instead, take the sales conversation in a completely different direction. It’s not about their solution. It’s about these four words ….
“The … world … has … changed.”
This is all you need to say: “The world has changed.” That’s it. “The world has changed” is the quickest way to reset corporate decision making. And it’s a surprisingly easy tool for sales and marketing teams to use:
- “You made the right decision at the time, but the world has changed.”
- “Yes, this was the leading technology last year, but the world has changed.”
- “Now that your competitor is doing X, the world has changed.”
- “This new shift in consumer behavior means that the world has changed.”
- “The current cost of X means that the world has changed.”
Instead of attacking your prospect’s current solution, you simply introduce new information that makes their solution obsolete.
Here’s how to make the most of this approach:
- Find the change (it’s always there somewhere) – This doesn’t have be earth-shatteringly big news. As you saw in the examples above, one small factor can be enough to shift your prospect’s playing field. It can be good news or bad – a new opportunity or a new risk. You simply need to identify something that renders your prospect’s current solution less competitive.
- Play out the consequences of inaction – Help your prospects think through the logical outcomes if they don’t act on this new information. Will they lose market share? Will their costs rise? Will their solution be the slowest? Will customers complain? Status quo is no longer an option. Why? Because the world has changed.
- Invite comparison – This may be a great time for your prospect to rethink the alternatives to your solution. Yes, your old competitors have some strong benefits to offer. But, what if their offerings don’t take into account the fact that – you guessed it – the world has changed?
- Encourage your prospects to steal your script – If your prospects need any kind of internal buy-in or approval to go with your recommendation, all they have to do is take your same script, knock on the boss’s door, and say, “I know our solution was working before, but I want to make you aware of how the world has changed since that original decision was made.”
Try it and see.
Instead of having to be the big critic and attacking your prospect’s current solution (and by extension, the people responsible for it), try out this gentler four-word approach. It can work both in sales conversations and in marketing communications. Then, let me know how it goes.
This is indeed a tough subject to broach, especially when you don’t know where the current solution came from. I love the idea of simply saying “the world has changed”. Very helpful post!
John Reed says
Good point, Mickey. You rarely hear the whole story behind someone’s current solution. Thanks for the comment.
Linda Hughes says
Another great post. The timing of this post couldn’t be better. I’m currently explaining that “the world has changed” and your post has given me some additional ways to think about my messaging. Thanks so much for continuing to post useful information.
John Reed says
Thanks, Linda. Appreciate the comment, and glad to hear this is useful.
Dennis Hooper says
So many times, prospects want to defend “what is” simply to have some time to think about whether or not your proposal (that is, my proposal) might possibly work. The suggestion of having the person use the awareness that “the world has changed” in talking [to the leadership team, or the boss, or the Board, or whomever] is a super way of empowering that person AND having him or her become an ally. Nice adjunct idea to your main point. Thanks!
John Reed says
Thanks for the kind words, Dennis. You also bring up an important issue: prospects will defend a “what is” just to buy more thinking time or to test your recommendations and see how you respond. If they like what they hear, they’ll use your same response when other people in their own organization challenge them.
Flavio Tosi says
Thanks for the hint, (and thanks to Bob Apollo that pointed me here). John, I wonder if you would use the same approach in Marketing. Do you see any possible backfire? (btw I have seen an HP campain on LinkedIn emphasizing the costs of keeping technology… but the world has changed)
John Reed says
Flavio, thanks for bringing up the marketing question. I do see this as a tool that marketing and sales can use equally well. “The world has changed” is a great way for marketing to challenge the status quo and pique new interest. And, of course, it’s always more effective when prospects are getting the same, consistent message from all their interactions with the brand – whether from marketing or sales.
Regarding possible backfire, I’d love to hear what other people think, but my No.1 concern would be this: any claims that “the world has changed” have to be 100% true, and your brand has to have a meaningful response to that change. The “change” doesn’t need to be huge, but it has to be grounded in reality, and the sales professional must be able to back up their talk of change with solid evidence. The good news is that there’s so much change going on in most markets right now that you usually don’t have to look too hard to find it.
Thanks again for the comment, and I’ll look for that HP campaign.