As a sales executive for KaiNexus, I speak with Lean leaders and continuous improvement gurus daily. Most of them are excited about continuous improvement, but they are frustrated with the lack of supporting technology. However, once they decide to solve the technology problem, they face a new challenge - getting a new tool or platform approved and purchased. This is called the Buyer’s Journey, and it’s a foreign concept for so many people.
The first three steps in most of my customer engagements are pretty standard and go something like this:
- A discovery call to determine goals and see if KaiNexus can help
- A technical demonstration showing how their improvement efforts/language/docs would look in KaiNexus
- A proposal and a discussion in what we call a “quote review”
From there it can get murky because the steps that follow are almost never the same. Some decisions are quick and some take time…Some decisions involve multiple departments and require validation from many different people while some can be made by just one person… Some organizations simply sign an order form and start an experiment, or – and this is my least favorite – some never speak to us again.
Aside from the last group, one common theme continues to emerge. My contact will tell me, “I love KaiNexus, but my (insert title here) said we couldn’t approve this.”
Which begs the question, “How should you go about gaining approval for Continuous Improvement Software?”
If you’re looking for the silver-bullet answer in this post, STOP READING NOW! There is no short answer, no magic formula, no hidden secret or Jedi mind trick for getting buy-in at the right levels within your organization. However, here are 5 steps you can take to make your Buyer’s Journey easier and more successful.
Understand your internal buying process
Of all the questions I ask during my conversations with customers, one remains largely unknown, “When you’ve made purchases like this in the past, what has that process looked like?”
If you believe in a solution, the best way to gain approval is to understand your internal buying process. Who is involved? Whose budget does this fall under? Is there a committee involved? Does this need to be reviewed by our CEO? Our board? Will this require a legal review? Do I have to ask my IT team? Where the heck do I get this information?
Fear not, my friends, because each of these answers is easily attainable, and the best place to start is with your immediate supervisor. You should always, always ask for help - even if your manager doesn’t believe in the solution as much as you do. In fact, I have seen numerous situations where the supervisor did not initially believe in KaiNexus, but after they helped map out the buying process, they became more and more invested in the solution.
Know the value of what you're proposing
Value can be communicated in many ways. Time, cost, revenue, quality, satisfaction, safety, and resources are all great ways to communicate value.
When you understand your buying process, you’ll then understand the people involved and can determine what’s important to each of them. From there, you should take care to explain the value of what you’re proposing to each key individual along the way.
Decide on a start date
Even if you have to make it up, nailing down a specific date to have a solution live and running is the best way to “drive” a decision. It shows you’ve done your homework, taken initiative and are invested in the solution – all important factors in earning an approval.
Figure out who signs the PO
Someone’s signature is on every order your organization places. It’s imperative to ask this sometimes-difficult question or else you run the risk of having your solution rejected at the last minute. This conversation might get uncomfortable for a moment, but power through it, and you’ll be grateful when your new solution is easing your real pain.
Be honest with your sales rep and ask for help
I realize that this might be the hardest one for some people to believe, but the best salespeople are honest and are trying to help. In addition, there is a good chance they have been through more buying cycles than you have, so their advice can be valuable. When you help your sales person to know your buying process, your ultimate signor, and your target date, he can use that information to help you leverage discounts, add-ons, and extended contract terms - all of which will ultimately help you. That’s the definition of a win-win.
Procuring software solutions may not be easy, but they are usually worth it. Hopefully, these ideas will help make your Buyer’s Journey a little less painful and a lot more successful.