Jan Gordon
November 3, 2014

Before Jumping to Solutions, Know the Context

By Tony Zambito

We cannot wait to offer solutions.

We have the thirty-second elevator pitch, content marketing, presentations, lead generation, demand generation, sales training, and sales enablement. All designed to be proficient at offering solutions. Some companies can reach a fervent pitch with their marketing and sales in seeking to tell people or companies they have the solution.

Sometimes we rush to provide a solution while at other times, we work on an effort with a potential customer crafting a solution over many months. What we can be convinced of is belief we have the right solution.

Just what if? What if the solution is not the best solution or not necessarily the right solution?

In my qualitative buyer research with buyers over the past dozen years, I have found this can be the case more times than we like to think. What can be typical is companies expend large investments in crafting solutions and in preparing for solutions marketing. The focus is on identifying who the solution for, finding them, and then telling how their solution is the best for solving problems. Putting large investments in marketing, sales training, and sales enablement to tell the great story of their solution. Sometimes it works and many times – it does not.

What Is Missing?

businessman-300x300Recently, we have seen various recommendations regarding the importance of sales bringing content plus context into their sales conversation. Similarly, we see the rage around Challenger Sale and bringing insights into the sales conversation. This is what B2B organizations should aspire to. To get there, however, means B2B organizations must take a step back and truly find out what is meant by context and what does it mean to their buyers.

B2B marketing and sales can be plagued by a very common problem called: jumping to the solution. Where we jump to putting content together and assumed context together to tell buyers why our solutions are the best for what ails them.

What is missing?

B2B companies are missing the immersive contextual understanding needed to truly pull this off. By immersive I mean taking time to research and to validate you have the right solution and story in the first place.  In other words, B2B businesses must uncover the complex human stories taking place.

An Illustrative Story

Here is a simple illustrative fictional story, which embodies a few B2B buyer insights research and buyer persona engagements I have experienced with organizations, to help paint the picture of this important point:

A motorcycle and moped manufacturer in India believed creating heavier duty engines would allow rice producers to transport rice to higher elevation villages in the mountainside. They spent much time and investment in perfecting the solution. Creating a new engine and line of motorcycles designed to hold two to three large bags of rice to transport up mountainous roads. The marketing department created elaborate content promising more power and transport capabilities. Sales were outfitted with training on how to sell this new engine and what it could mean to the rice producers to have improved capabilities to move their goods up the mountain.

The company was convinced this solution would be embrace enthusiastically by rice producers. After several weeks of no sales and an inventory of new motorcycles sitting in their warehouse, a meeting was called to find out what was happening.   In the meeting, one of the sales people stood up and said the reason is simple – “they are asking for donkeys, not motorcycles.” The head of the company shouted “what!” and “why?”   The salesperson said it rains consistently nine months of the year, causing hilly roads to be washed out or be impassable by motor vehicles. The only workable transportation, which can make it up to the mountainside villages were – donkeys.

In this story, the manufacturer believed they had the right solution for the right context. However, they did not make efforts to understand true immersive context beforehand, which could have saved them from a warehouse of unsold motorcycles.

Here is a video from an IBM contest of filmmakers to support their smart commerce theme. It is a humorous story about context:

The Right Perspective

When it comes to context and insights, having the right perspective is important. Context is not something, which happens or is made up just to support content marketing and sales. Context is extremely important for B2B companies today to understand how they can best serve their markets and buyers. It is a strategic human-centered approach designed to take place well before jumping to the solution. Otherwise, you can end up with a warehouse full of widgets.


Originally posted as “The Importance of Understanding Context Before Jumping To Solutions” on tonyzambito.com

Tony is Founder and creator of buyer personas to inform marketing & sales strategies. Buyer Persona Development™,  Buyer Insights Research and Human-Centered Marketing.  See more of Tony on Twitter, , Linkedin or Google+

Images: Copyright: ‘http://www.123rf.com/profile_alphaspirit’>alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo

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