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Learning to Be Provocative

Learning to Be Provocative

in InfoSource, Marketing 101

No matter the industry, these are tough times to be selling to business customers. The budget allowances simply aren’t what they used to be, and with less money to go around, proposals are subjected to higher levels of review. Oftentimes, this means that the managers you’ve traditionally dealt with are no longer the decision-makers. 

Rather than resign themselves to hearing the standard “Sorry, we have no budget for that,” some vendors have found a new approach that helps them reach their customers’ decision makers and motivate them to allocate the necessary funds. Philip Lay, Todd Hewlin and Geoffrey Moore, managing directors at TCG Advisors, call this process “provocation-based selling.” 

Provocation-based selling differs dramatically from product-based selling, which is the most common approach. Solution-selling salespeople listen for “pain points” that the customer can clearly articulate. In contrast, provocation-based salespeople challenge their customers’ thinking. Instead of aligning with a company’s prevailing outlook, it provides a new angle on the situation, for example: “You are thinking about your business along the following conventional lines…The way we see things, that puts your success in jeopardy. Instead, consider thinking about it in this completely different way…” This approach essentially outlines a problem that the customer is experiencing but has not yet put a name to. 

Provocation-based selling isn’t right for every selling situation, nor does it apply only during recessionary times. However, with current economic conditions what they are, this approach may be the best way to move past the “buy nothing” mantra.