Archives for posts with tag: Requirements

It’s often said that the most important part of the sales process is requirements analysis. You’ll hear companies refer to it as needs analysis as well. The terms seem to be interchangeable, yet they mask a crucial difference.

If you don’t know what your prospective customer’s requirements are, it’s hard for you to establish how good the fit is between what you sell and what they want. Do you have what they’re looking for?

Needs analysis, on the other hand, focuses on what they need, which may differ significantly from what they want. Do you tell them what they want to hear and sell them what they want to buy? Or do you dig deeper and present a compelling case for what they might need – and which, of course, you have – which might be unpalatable to them and cost you the deal.

That said, there are plenty of sales methodologies which teach advanced ways of moving a customer’s objectives to a new set of objectives, a place where the selling organisation has a strong advantage over the competition. The ethical question is whether the new problem, and the associated new solution, are genuinely bigger and more urgent than the one the customer started with.

Selling to requirements is an easier path, whereas selling to needs can lead to a better result.

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In our second B2B product launch process step, we looked at the kick-off call and how the project team members shared their expectations and requirements. Now it’s time to do something with those requirements.

The third step is to gather those requirements.

What is your objective for this project? Sure, you want a successful launch, but you need to get more granular in terms of specific requirements that you can subsequently measure to get a sense of how you did when you come to the review stage. Also, these requirements need to work across your launch team. You’ve already heard a range of opinions in the kick-off call. Now you need to consolidate them into a set that works best for the business and get everyone behind them.

Here are some of the basics you need to think about:

  • What revenues are you looking to achieve from the project? This may already be stated in your business case document. Numbers of customers, partners, average attachment rate – number of products per customer – increase?
  • What kind of a launch do you need? A phased, ‘soft’ launch with an extended beta phase and a gradual expansion of availability across customers, prospect groups, regions and so on? Or perhaps a ‘hard, big bang’ launch, which carries more risk but gives you more awareness and a quicker hit?
  • What use cases or scenarios will your product cater to? What kind of customers or success stories will you use to best endorse the launch?
  • What will the product do? What is the scope of the product?
  • What are the specific requirements that each department or function involved in the product will have to deliver to? Development, testing, marketing, sales, product management, operations, professional services and implementation, support?

Once you’ve defined all your requirements for your product launch, you need to socialise them with the rest of the team, and be prepared for some toing and froing, before you have an agreed set. Then you can set about figuring out how you’re going to meet them, which is the topic of our fourth step.

In previous posts in this series on the B2B selling process – which, I’m sure you’re sick of reading, matches your customers’ B2B buying process – we covered defining and listing your addressable market and then defining the sales opportunity for you.

This third selling stage corresponds to the ‘brief’ buying stage and concerns the customer’s objectives. What are they looking to do? Your prospective customer is setting out its requirements for removing the barriers to achieving its objectives. The brief can come in many forms, from the ultra-short verbal brief – especially if you’re already a supplier to the customer –  to the more formal requests for information, quote, or proposal, through to the ultra-formal Invitation to Tender.

The really important point to bear in mind is this: if this is the first you’re hearing of a potential opportunity to do business with the customer, you’ve already missed a few stages in the customer’s buying process. They may have already done a fair bit of work researching their problem, and researching you. Worse still, they may have also received help designing and framing their requirements from – yikes! – a competitor. And if the competitor has helped them write the brief, guess what the optimal solution is likely to be geared to? Yep, the competitor’s offering. And what’s the success rate for responding to an unexpected invitation to bid for business? Zero to 5%. Yep, that’s not a typo, it’s 0 to 5%.

Let’s pull ourselves away from this gloomy scenario for a moment though. At this selling stage you have a couple of options. You can either assume the customer has a clear understanding of what they need or you can ask them a bunch of questions to challenge their assumptions, qualify their requirements in more detail and maybe highlight some additional areas that they might not have considered. The golden rule in a sales opportunity is ABQ – Always Be Qualifying, through the life of your active association with the opportunity, until you win it, lose it, or pull out. Use some of the following questions to help dig into the customer’s objectives:

– Who is involved in the decision? What’s the pecking order?

– What is their role in the decision? They will have different roles, from evaluators through to decision-makers and decision-approvers.

– Some of the people will have different things they want to get out of the project. What are they? Whose are more important?

– What is the process from here, all the way through to completion?

– Is the budget rock solid? There’s no chance of another project getting the funding?

– Is the budget enough for what they want to do?

– Why do they have to do this project?

– What happens if they don’t do this project? If nothing happens, you don’t have an opportunity. No-one you want to work with is going to spend money they don’t need to spend

After you’ve satisfied you have a clear understanding of the objectives, and the prospective customer has confirmed them, there are some additional things for you to consider yourself:

– What relationship do you have with the key people involved in this project? Most importantly, what relationship do you have with the person who is most impacted by the success or failure of this project?

– How are you going to win this business from the competitive alternatives, including an internal alternative, or the ‘do nothing’ alternative?

– What’s the fit like between your solution and their objectives. You need to be able to demonstrate you alone are the best fit for them

At the end of this stage you need to be able to articulate how you feel about this deal and why you think you should pursue it or disengage. From here it gets expensive for you to compete and so you need to be sure you understand clearly what is required and what your chances of success are.