“I met all the requirements; I don’t understand why I didn’t win the bid.”

“We’re just not competitive.”

“They always do business with supplier X.”

Does this sound familiar?

When I talk to chemical leaders and their sales and marketing teams, I hear this all-too-often. There’s a certain sense of defeat and frustration that comes with those words.

After all, you’ve engaged the customer. Understood the requirements. Submitted a winning proposal. And then… Nothing. Nada. No deal.

What just happened?

Chances are, you didn’t actually have a full picture of what the customer wanted and needed. To be fair, sometimes the customer doesn’t fully understand what they want…. Until they see it or experience it with a supplier’s offer or engagement or overall value proposition. Other times, the critical elements are subjective rather than objective or hidden behind the technical details of their request.

It comes down to understanding the customer’s WHY.

Simon Sinek has spoken and written on this topic extensively, including what’s become a business classic: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action.

Sinek has said: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

I’ll go one step further: Customers don’t buy what you deliver, they buy what you deliver when matches why it’s important to their business.

Sinek uses a pretty simple framework to demonstrate this topic: What, How, and Why.

In typical business engagements, deals, and especially RFQs, the What and the How are usually all that is articulated. What and How are tangible, measurable, and easily described. Yet, the WHY is where true discovery, influence and decisions are made. And getting to WHY with your customers is where you really expand your relationships, influence and create value.

So, how do you get to WHY?

Ask the right questions…. And listen for what is and is not said…

  • How do you use the product?
  • Who is your current supplier? How many suppliers do you have for this product? What do you like about your supply today? What frustrates you today?
  • What happens if you don’t reach an agreement and engage a supplier?
  • And follow-up with a why question: Why is that important? Why do you require certain specifications? Why are you interested in our company / product / service?

Some things I’ve heard when asking these questions: “Your product runs correctly, every time, with no system adjustments.” And, “Supplier X has reliability issues. We never know if the order will arrive on time.” And, “Our incumbent supplier is easy to work with. We have a single point-of-contact and they know what we need before we even ask. “

Find their pain points… and ease them.

Asking the right questions will help you identify some, if not all of their pain points. Then, find a solution that addresses those challenges.

Engage the real decision makers and influencers. (Hint: It’s not procurement.)

Depending on the company and product, there are a variety of people that influence a decision.

  • Product formulators
  • Plant operators or technicians (who provide GREAT insights about the competition and what’s really going on.)
  • Engineers and designers
  • Supply and logistics team
  • Marketers

Finding your customer’s WHY is about building great relationships. And, once you understand their WHY – the underlying and often unstated wants, needs, and values – creating success and a WIN becomes an easier task.

Are you and your business charting a path for growth and seeking greater engagement and alignment with your customers? Progressio Global can help. Schedule a complimentary consultation to identify ways to increase your customer success.