Understanding your prospect's change environment

Your win rate will depend on how likely prospects are to take action - but their internal atmosphere may hold them back. How do you recognize and react to difficult change environments?

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Try as much as you like, some customers just aren’t going to buy.

You could have the best product, a high-ROI marketing strategy, a spectacular sales process… and they’ll either reject you straight up or you’ll get a ‘no’ at the end.

Why? Not for the reasons you might expect.

There’s one element that will decide whether your product is bought and adopted, or not.

Your customer’s internal change environment will determine your sales outcome

Whether your customer can or will buy your product will depend on their internal change environment.

This is not their attitude to change - more so the entire atmosphere within their business. Is change locked down and admonished, is it expected and encouraged, or does no change happen because everything is burning down?

“The internal environment of an organization refers to events, factors, people, systems, structure, and conditions that… influence organization activities, decisions, and employee behavior and attitudes.”1

Generally the more mature the business, the more difficult change is.

It’s not the same as when companies are highly risk-averse. They might be super galvanized and eager, but just can’t summon the energy to make it happen.

It’s extremely annoying to lose an opp because of this. You couldn’t have done anything more; it’s just the way the cookie crumbled. In hindsight, there may have been slight missteps - but it just wasn’t meant to be

What causes a poor change environment?

Organizations with poor change environments won’t often have issues just in one area - when they do, it’s much easier to overcome! It’s more likely that they’ll have a whole catalogue of issues that slow them down, cause them pain, and increases the likelihood of inertia - the enemy of momentum.

These issues are likely to include:

  • Strict IT and security concerns that need to be appeased before any software can be piloted, let alone onboarded

  • Internal team bandwidth and priorities that limit their scope for investigating new solutions to their problems, let alone the implementation and energy required to state their case

  • Entrenched software systems that are owned by centralized teams with their own priorities and restrictions

  • Incumbent contracts that are poorly negotiated for long-term ROI with no exit clauses

  • Business diktats that ban unnecessary spending, hiring freezes, or limit projects/areas for investment

Some of these will be visible from the start. Some will only become blockers later in the process.

So how do you expect, account, and move forward with prospects with cumulative issues like these?

Build your process around the change environment

Some sales reps will battle through all of the issues as they arise one-by-one, to no result. It just leads to knockback after knockback, diminished motivation and a drop in confidence.

You can try to mitigate these challenges in the sales process with various tactics, but it’s more valuable to recognize the bigger issue and bake it into your GTM, sales, and marketing strategy. For example:

  • Understand it within your ICP and personas

    • Especially at ICP level, is there another segment that is more willing and able to work with you than prospects with hard-change environments?

  • Extract as much information as possible in discovery and create different sales paths for easy-vs-hard change environments

    • Ask questions to understand the procurement process, ask for examples on the last time they purchased software, make sure you’re extracting potential blockers in the discovery call

    • In early-stage sales, disqualification is much more important and valuable than qualification - be strict on the types of prospects you want

  • Track progress made in hard change environments to look for patterns, see what approaches work well, and consciously iterate on your win path

  • Be realistic with your go-to-market strategy and: is it worth trying to win those customers at all?

    • Could the time you spend on one hard customer be better spent acquiring two easier customers?

The sooner you can recognize and understand the change environment that your buyer operates within, the better systems and processes you can build around it - but make sure you make a conscious decision to acknowledge the challenge and are prepared to overcome, work around, or avoid.

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