The Challenges of (and with) the Conflicted Customer

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As COVID-19 brings challenges for most of us--both as individuals and the companies we work for, it is often forcing change that we feel ill-equipped to handle.   Our research into Enterprise Technology Adoption profiles bring clues to the organizations that might be feeling the most "change pain." In our studies in this area, we consistently see the largest profile group being "FCM."   These are organizations that take a flexible approach to strategic technology planning, have a balanced approach to driving the technology agenda (with business and IT working together--albeit with strong "IT out" influence", and are measured in their approach to change--preferring to wait and see the impact of things happening around them (and technology) before acting.   We currently assign these folks a nickname of "Practical," but as we look deeper I think I'd call them conflicted. In various studies they show up as: Making the least progress and investment in digital transformation efforts Extremely pessimistic about most of their technology investments. The most likely to have high regret, leading to the lowest percentage of high quality deals. The worst performers, in terms of growth, buy their own admission (we asked respondents to compare their growth with others in their market). Again, this is the largest group of companies out there ranging from around 25% to 35% of enterprises in most of our studies. By taking a deeper look at the drivers behind their profile categorization (we use a clustering algorithm), we can see some of their challenges. The chart shows the weighted average of their responses to our 7 questions that go into the ETA methodology (you can assess your own organization or a customer's here) in 2 different studies (bringing the respondent total overall to almost 3000).  The labels at the top and bottom of each column reflect the spirit of responses.   As you can see, FCMs: View technology tactically, yet prefer customization (when customization should be used for strategic purposes and differentiation) Want short term wins (with technology as the context), but avoid replacing technology or even investing in it when possible. Are the most likely to take a "wait and see" attitude about most decisions. Other studies show they often invest in technologies not because they necessarily want to, but because they think they have to due to competitors (unfortunately, they also ait to see if the competitors are truly getting value--putting them farther behind). For these customers, change isn't just a necessary evil--it is evil.   I was talking to a client recently who uses ETAs in their marketing and sales efforts.  They were asking me if COVID-19 is driving FCMs (and others closely like them) to embrace digital transformation (my take: maybe--need more data).   They did tell me they had signed a new client, and FCM, that said exactly that.  I then said, "Let me guess how that engagement is going.   You've signed the deal, but progress is slow or non-existent.  When you talk to the client about ideas, they spend most of the time explaining why 'that won't work here.'  They then complain about having to change and look for shortcuts that are less impactful, but that you know won't pay off."   The folks from the services company on the call said, "You know nothing about this client other than that we said they were an FCM, yet you've basically described every interaction we have with them." I'm no clairvoyant (maybe this should my tag line for LinkedIn and Twitter), but the patterns are clear. This large group of companies have conflicting attitudes that frustrate them and their vendors. The big question for vendors is "how do we deal with these guys?"  It is important given their prevalence in the market.   I don't think there are easy answers, but I'd suggest a few things: Beware of them early in a market:  They may talk a good game about short term goals, but they will then languish. Focus on Change Enablement and breaking change down into consumable chunks.  Managing change may be more important than pure outcome selling. Avoid FUD tactics, as these will be amplify the lack of confidence. Misery will become the descriptor for deals that work out when FUD driven. Provide evidence and guidance to nudge them toward better decision approaches. The conflicted customer is key to maximizing market potential, but the challenges are real.   Go in with eyes open and you have a chance to fight through those challenges with your FCM customer.  If you do so, and help them succeed, you have a good chance for a long term customer (given their aversion to change).  

Source: Gartner Blog Network On:

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