Needs, Wants and Demands in a B2B Marketplace

Needs, Wants and Demands in a B2B Marketplace

Firms exist to serve other firms and individuals. In a B2B scenario firms serve other firms. Let me consider the requirements that are visible and expressed by Firms to procure new goods and services. It is what is available in structured RFPs and RFQs. Vendor Firms bid for it and at most times the one with the right connections – (Which knows the CEO, Knows the Project Manager, Knows the user) wins. The win is attributed to good connections.

When I really think, what is it, that my good connection gave, which helped me close my deal and I come back to the very fundamentals of Marketing.

The terms  NEEDS, WANTS and DEMANDS.

An RFP is a demand by a Firm (Firm A) which it will like to be fulfilled, because it has an approval to spend so much on a project/product for fulfilling a specific requirement. The RFP is a globally available expression of such desires backed by a financial willingness to buy from the most qualified seller. DEMANDS are important as they have a strategic connotation, where a firm that is floating the RFP adds a cloak around the specific requirement, that make the solution to the requirement unique to the firm.

Then comes the WANT. It is a desire, which need not always have a justifiable correlation with the cost at which this desire could be fulfilled. WANTS are generally posted by middle level managers who wish well for Firm and who collect best practices (Processes/Features/Specifications/User Interface models etc.)  from within organizations and from outside (including competing firms/products). These WANTS could give a One-up-manship to the product/project for which the Firm A is floating the RFP.

Then finally at the root of all this is the NEED

The NEED is a basic requirement at the center of WANTS and DEMANDS. It is as basic as a Human Being’s need for food or shelter. The Firm needs a solution to a specific problem. For example, a software developer in a geographically distributed project team NEEDs to be able to interact simultaneously with multiple of his peers. The basic NEED is to be able to have a crisp and clear multi-location conference like discussion among team members.

The basic NEED gets transformed to a WANT with frills like, Video Presence, File Sharing, meeting reminders, automatic call routers, mute and record options etc. etc. And what translated to the RFP as DEMAND are the basic NEED + half of those frill features (WANTS). The trimming of WANTS happened due to cost, infrastructure, security and other strategic considerations.

Coming back to why Firm X won the deal, is because through its connections, it was able to understand the basic NEED of the Firm A and never lost sight of the basic NEED while proposing its product/service/solution.

The Firm with the connections, picked up the DEMANDed features, met the project managers and negotiated alternate and toned down version of their original WANTS (all of which no longer reflected in the RFP), and made sure it addressed the basic NEED and all this at a cost that suited the bidding Firm. Mind you, the NEED could be something that is not related to the product at all and could possibly be a legal, security related, or simply a long term commitment like warranty and support related NEED.

This knowledge of the NEEDS and WANTS and respect for the various levels of the Firm A, won Firm X the deal, though visibly it was because the Sales guy golfed with the CEO  and dined with the Project Manager of Firm A.

** Of course I am not considering the deals where favoritism in return for other favors swing the deals. I am also considering that the pricing or a perceptible price for the same product or service by all bidding firms was similar. (I have more to say on perceptible ROI, which I will, on another blog)

‘Selling’ and ‘Making a prospect buy’ – Not two sides of the same coin!!

‘Selling’ and ‘Making a prospect buy’ – Not two sides of the same coin!!

he objective, in the ‘selling’ approach and ‘making my prospect buy’ approach is the same, but there is an enormous gap in the messaging. In ‘Selling’ we have ‘We’ (our company, our product, our service, our culture) as the centrepiece while in ‘making my prospect buy’ approach the centrepiece is the Buyer.

At this point, we have lot of us nodding our heads in a ‘yes we know’ but typically the connect and the pride that we have with all that is ours (our company, our product, our service, our culture) makes it very difficult to even try to understand what our prospect actually wants.

Companies have become large, just by focusing on ‘how to make my prospects buy’ while those which focused on their greatest product have just perished – we know of the successful companies and for each of them there are a dozen or more companies which got their product right and they felt nothing could be better, not even a prospect which thought a bit otherwise.

One of the key aspects in ‘making prospects buy’ approach, is creating the perception of the product that it is good and is what it promises to be. Perception is a purely one sided word. We can show, tell, write everything about the product but ‘perceiving’ it the way a customer wants, is purely his/her prerogative.

This is where, it becomes an art. ‘Perception’ equates very closely with value. Not the value of the product but the value of the benefit the buyer derives from acquiring the product. Value also equates with the Price of the product, including the effort and the resources that the buyer is going to invest for the value, the buyer ‘Perceives’. Therefore, the key to creating the ‘Perception’ is to understand the customer, its business, need, preferences, dislikes and whatever is possible. In a larger context, a clear understanding of the market from the perspective of the buyers, themselves is essential to create the ‘Perception’. In essence, depending on how it is positioned, Perception becomes the real value.

The second most important parameter after ‘Perception’ is the ‘Likeability’ of the product. Likeability is again a very subjective word, nonetheless, when our buyers do not like the color on the bottle, or are intimidated by the sales guy and we lose serious brownie points. Therefore again, it is important that the product is presented and packaged in a way, it aligns with the ‘Perception’ created. Likeability in a way is a value enhancer

The last and a critical parameter is ‘Association’ of the product. All buyers have subconscious favourites and the favourites could be ideologies, people, fantasies, places, events and there are those standard memory joggers – like a life occasion, a childhood memory, a song. For e.g. associating with happy occasions could be better to get a mindshare for a chocolate brand than listing out the nuts and the flavors; likewise associating with ‘time with family’ could influence a buyer to make a decision on choosing a home internet connection. ‘Association’, in fact is a very powerful sales agent.

Having talked of PerceptionLikeability and Association, it might sound little ‘Consumerish’ but almost everything stated above works even in a B2B scenario, after all it is always a human being that buys, not the business.

Cloud – Subversive, Invasive and Pervasive!!!

Cloud – Subversive, Invasive and Pervasive!!!

Its raining and literally clouds are everywhere and at work too.  Almost as Internet took shape and the web took over, the Cloud is no different. Literary thoughts apart The Cloud is taking over – It is Subversive, Invasive and soon will be Pervasive.

Cloud is changing the way enterprises strategize their IT infrastructure. Sooner than later an enterprise’s cloud infrastructure will define its global reach and presence, it will define the way they service their customers, how customers interact with them.

Be it a Retail organization, maintaining its global inventories and billing systems in the cloud or a Cable Company providing time-shifting and place-shifting services for its content through Cloud, Without Cloud, the sun won’t shine on businesses.

Where it draws a parallel to the advent of Internet is, it is leveling out the playing field between smaller organizations and Industry Mammoths. The Smaller companies now have access to high end, highly available, efficient and specific Servers and Applications, without the huge Capex that they earlier would have to shell out for the same infrastructure.

Cloud is lending another meaning to the word ‘mobility’ . With connectivity becoming faster and cheaper by the day (just read about Google launching its Superfast Broadband service), it would not be far when organizations run out of ‘pocket servers’ and all of us carry our own DRM protected content on our own ‘youtubes’.  Compatibility and ‘Unknown file Format’ would be a thing of the past as you use the Cloud applications, without licensing them out on your own Personal Systems!!! Possibly our personal devices would carry only the Skins, while the applications run on the cloud and even more possibly we will not need to have personal devices because all devices would serve our personal content with the same fervor.

Storage is another area which is getting delimited by the Cloud. Imagine a virtual home in the cloud, where you store your own grocery store and it stores stuff from multiple of your retailers, each providing the item that you want, so you don’t have to search every time you want to buy , a video rack where all your fav movies and Soaps (minus commercials) are available, a library with all your favorite books (in the ebook form). They are all yours, at your tips, only that you never pay for all of them , only the ones that you use, won’t that be amazing. Welcome says the Cloud.

With so much content and applications on the cloud, Security is an aspect which will gain the maximum attention.  The worry and the threat of exposure without a properly thought out Security Strategy  is almost like baiting out all hackers to your cloud. On the other hand with all applications going to the cloud there would be only one place to secure and a uniform strategy and secure policies, organizations can feel more secure than ever.

Clouds are shaping up and for a change they are not dark. A lot is promised, and in small puffs they are all coming together!!