Saturday 19 January 2013

9. Harvard Business Review Article – In a Downturn, Provoke Your Customers by Philip Lay, Todd Hewlin, and Geoffrey Moore

To get the year rolling, B2B Books has chosen this short article from the Harvard Business Review. In a Downturn, Provoke Your Customers, offers an alternative and fresh perspective on sales acquisition during hard economic times. Solution Selling is directly challenged as a somewhat antiquated niche sales methodology, which does not work well enough in all scenarios.

Provocation selling follows a series of stages:
  1. Identify a critical issue – great in depth company research to know company inside out and hence identify a strategic issue the sales professional’s company can address.
  2. Formulate your provocation – create an original point of view that will stimulate interest from C-Level decision makers. 
  3. Lodge your provocation – develop a presentation that demonstrates and clarifies the specific challenge faced by the company. Additionally, establish the sales professional’s deep understanding of the company.
  4. Prove your point – a diagnostic study to investigate the challenge illuminating related issues and gaining internal momentum for continued problem resolution.

When considering solution selling the notion is to aid clients to articulate existing problems and the implications of those problems as they align with the solution to be presented. In contrast, Provocation selling requires the presentation of an impactful problem statement that challenges the prevailing point of view and which the sales professional has developed base upon in depth research and analysis accomplished on the target company.  

Given that Provocation selling is aimed at the C-Level the initial challenge of the status quo is directed at overall business strategy and needs to be handled with a delicate confidence which inspires further budget for examination of the issues facing the client. Moreover, and this is quite interesting, the level of interest garnered from a skillfully delivered presentation should result in a revenue stream to accomplish an in depth analysis of the issue within the company. This is turn puts the sales professional in a C-Level sponsored leadership and influence role to force even more issues to the surface and entrench him in the account as a trusted advisor.

Looking at the article as a whole, Provocation selling requires an immense amount of time intensive research to gain the necessary knowledge to lodge an impactful challenge. This method is definitely structured toward enterprise level companies lacking sufficient budget for new endeavors. It would be well suited to long-term sales cycles of companies who sell strategically critical products from the C-Level perspective. 

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