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  • Writer's pictureNadav Efraty

Chapter 4 - From the Tactical to the Strategic

There is no opportunity unless the seller uncovers a critical need or a pain and identifies and builds a champion that is committed to changing the status quo. The bad news is that this is where opportunities are created, but most of the opportunities are going to die because while the champion desires the seller’s new capabilities, the decision makers see things differently. Namely: 


  1. The purchase is not prioritized by the decision makers or buying committee, which decide to stick with the status quo further, so while the champion may keep trying, the deal either dies or keeps hanging as a zombie. 

  2. The decision makers or buying committee decide to go with other capabilities or vendors so the deal is lost. 


For that reason – while the pain discovery is critical, it is as important to switch gears from the tactical discovery that won the champion, to the strategic implication and the business case discovery that will win the executives with the decision power over the budget and the resources.  


We divide the discovery into three stages or levels:


  1. Level 1 – Tactical - understand / uncover the use case, the needs / pains, the compelling event. In this stage the seller is trying to sell to a champion that has tactical objectives and emotional connections to the pains of the status quo. This is the time for the 3 whys, mentioned in “The Situation and The Pain” chapter. 

  2. Level 2 – Strategic - Together with the champion, discover the motivations and priorities of the other stakeholders. Then, uncover the strategic implications of the tactical pains, their alignment with strategic drivers and initiatives, the metrics that could be used to measure financial  / business impact, and business case analysis, so that the other stakeholders will understand the strategic impact of the tactical pains, will support and prioritize this buying decision over others and will underwrite it. 

  3. Level 3 – Technical - The deep technical implementation details that are required for the POV and/or the implementation, which may be critical for the definition of the success criteria as well as the implementation itself. Level 3 discovery is typically done by the Sales Engineers.


While each of the three levels has different objectives, in the end, each group of stakeholders has different needs and priorities – the role of the seller, and of the staged discovery, is to get all of the stakeholder to realize that their different challenges and objectives are all related to the same big underlying pain and that new specific (differentiated) capabilities are required to cure it. Failure to paint this big picture is very likely to end in the loss of the opportunity.


Focusing on the strategic impact or the business case and impact analysis at the first discovery stage is premature and will in fact be counterproductive. The champion typically focuses on the tactical needs and will not necessarily know how to align them with the strategic corporate initiatives and how to analyze the business impact. In fact, the metrics that are required for that analysis may be outside of the champion’s normal scope. Even in cases where the champion is an executive which would personally interested in a business case, it is important to understand that the initial buying decision must be emotional (i.e. – related to the pains and desires of the champions) and that only after that emotional decision comes the rationalizing phase (i.e. let’s justify what we want with numbers). Focusing on business metrics and ROI before the champion has bought in are more likely to shut the champion off than to drive excitement. After all – champions are trying to solve pains – not to get a certain ROI figure.


On the other hand, without the strategic alignment and business impact analysis, corporate executives are MUCH less likely to prioritize and underwrite the needed investment. Presenting financial metrics and analysis without a clear link to the tactical pains and the required capabilities is less likely to work as well. Also, note that beyond the financial parameters the decision makers will consider resource allocations, overheads, contact switches of team members etc. Thus, the business case should not be limited to the financial side – the seller should try to address the big picture which is always weighing the impact on one hand, the costs and tradeoffs on the other. The seller should help the stakeholders realize both how big the impact is and how small the cost and tradeoffs in order to bring more of the stakeholder to agree to the decision or as a minimum, not object to it. 


Not every ROI / payback analysis will have equal impact - lofty ROIs that are based on revenue acceleration or on quantifying business risk reduction are not perceived as credible and may lead buyers to assume that the offering doesn’t bring hard measurable value. Thus, the business analysis should focus first and be based on the ROI and payback of the hard savings such as reducing costs and labor. The lofty business acceleration and risk reduction figures should be presented as the upside, not the basis for the analysis. 


It is the seller’s job to guide the champion in collecting the data and then build the defensible business case for the champion. The best way to embark on that discovery journey is to start with a generic business case that is built / customized based on the use cases, offerings, pains, drivers, etc., that have been expressed by the champion. For that, have basic business case templates that use some parameters of the specific opportunity along with multiple default assumptions that together, can create a business case that is mostly generic, but still somewhat customized for the specific opportunity. This is something that the champion can start to use internally, and the seller can now guide the champion which of the parameters and assumptions in the model need to be discovered and validated in order to tighten the business case and have the champion own it when it is presented internally.  


The strategic alignment and the business impact could be validated and further tightened following every stakeholders’ meeting.


The discovery of the strategic implications and the analysis that leads to the business cases are non-trivial for most champions. Thus, they must be guided and armed by the sellers. Unfortunately, this part is even harder for many of the sellers that just like the champions, are better and more experienced in the tactical vs. the strategic. It is the leadership role to guide and coach and enable the sellers so they can pass it forward.


Tactical to strategic

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