Attention, pain, and budget

Philip Morgan

I love this little moment from Ocean's Eleven:

It reminds me of the relationship between the popular and the important. It reminds me of focus.

• • •

A prospective client coughed up a really interesting idea on a call yesterday.

In a services firm of sufficient size, the lack of a strong market position is felt differently throughout the ranks.

The ownership and management feels it in a diffuse sort of way. In a way, they may not feel it at all. Things might be OK from their perspective.

But the sales team feels it in a more acute, tangible way. They viscerally feel the lack of power in the sale; the shaky power and value dynamics they're dealing with.

The idea: might it be possible to sell this change upward into the organization, starting with the sales team?

My initial response: probably not. The drive to make a market position change has to come from ownership/management or it just won't work.

My response after sleeping on it: probably not. I want it to work, but it doesn't seem likely.

I want it to work because pain can create buying urgency for my services, especially when it's felt by the right people. In larger organizations, those "right people" are often insulated from many forms of business pain.

In "Specializing Without Failure", I provide a checklist of 9 things you should understand about a market before focusing on that market.

But as I coach ever more people through market research, I keep finding ways to simplify that list of 9 items into fewer:

  1. Who within the org buys?
  2. What do they buy?
  3. How long does it take them to buy?
  4. Why do they buy?

That's the minimum viable corpus of insight we need into a market, and -- if you're entering a new market -- the most convenient place to quickly get this insight is your future competitors.

• • •

On one hand, the above list really simplifies things: only try to sell services that have a known type of buyer with a history of buying similar services.

On the other hand: frustrating! There are so many places to improve things, so many places where parts of an org experience pain. Those all seem like sales opportunities.

But if the pain is divorced from the budget, the sale might not be easy. It might not be possible at all.