In Great Demo! Workshops we often note that customers will be willing to live (for a long time!) with the problems they face, but are motivated to address these problems when the problems put a goal or objective at risk. Accordingly, the best way to define a Critical Business Issue is in terms of quarterly, annual, or project-based goals or objectives that are at risk. These are what often drive people to make a change (and buy some software).
However, many sales teams have a hard time distinguishing between Problem level issues and Critical Business Issues – and too often, they list the former as the latter (which can then contribute to a “No Decision” outcome).
To help differentiate between the two, ask, “How is this person measured? How does he/she know, at the end of the year, that he/she has been a success?” The answer often is a Critical Business Issue for that person.
Contributing to the confusion is the fact that most people operate at the Problem level and only think in terms of Critical Business Issues when gently pushed… Here’s an example (and good practice for working with real prospects):
Ask a sales person at your company, “What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job today?”
Most sales people will likely respond with something like, “Well, I don’t have enough good leads – and I’m spending too much time on administrative stuff…”
That answer is at the Problem level – not a Critical Business Issue…
You then say, “Mm-hmm, mm-hmm… Tell me, how are you measured? How do you know at the end of the quarter or year that you have been a success?”
The sales person realizes, “Oh, yeah – if I make quota…!”
That’s the Critical Business Issue. Which is more important and valuable to this sales person: getting enough leads/less admin stuff, or making his numbers? (I’d say the latter). Which would cause him to take action – worrying about too few leads or realizing that he is waaaaay below quota as he moves into the last month of the quarter? I’d say the latter, again!