We’ve previously covered the three types of churn: Green Churn, Failure to Thrive, and Sudden Change. We talked about what made them what they were: how the optics of health scores can be misleading, and how churn analysis cannot fix a problem - it can only show you where you went wrong. This article is about getting ahead of churn. You’re never going to get rid of it completely, but with certain techniques you can be more proactive in preventing churn from happening. By moving beyond health scores and engaging in real dialogue with your clients, you’ll gain a better understanding of why your successful wins happened in the first place, and how you can mitigate against those successes turning into failures - that is to say, avoiding churn.
Let’s start with that most famous of heroes: your buyer.
An Introduction to Buyer-As-Hero
We argue incessantly that talking to your buyer and really listening to their feedback is the best way to get real insights into a sales transaction. Before you can make sense of your buyer’s feedback, though, you have to understand what motivates them, what drives them, what brings them to the table in the first place. You’ve heard that every buyer is on a journey, and journey mapping is becoming a common marketing and sales tool. But – just have we have argued that the common view of Win/Loss is incomplete - we also feel the same way about most people’s perception about the buyer’s journey. What’s missing from the equation, believe it or not, is heroism. That’s right – heroism - just like you might find in a movie.
How does heroism fit into the world of sales? The pursuit of a sale is more than just a goal; it’s a mission, a quest that every buyer experiences when deciding what to buy and who to buy from. Some quests are short and easy, some are long and difficult, and no buyer ever knows how many budgetary dragons or certification sea serpents they’ll have to slay before their quest is complete.
Buyers don’t become buyers for no reason - they don’t start the quest on a whim. Every buyer is inspired by the same principle: that change needs to occur - that things cannot go on as they are, and that a hero ought to rise as a champion who can fight the good fight and win the day, making significant impact on how the future unfolds. Your buyer is the hero looking to achieve fundamental change in her organization.
Buyer-As-Hero and Churn
So what does this quest, this fundamental change (what we refer to as F-delta - FΔ), have to do with churn? Everything.
When uncovering the journey of the buyer as hero, there are numerous questions that need to be asked. In the course of their quest, what allies did they gain? What foes did they face? What sort of barriers did they encounter on the way? And, ultimately, did the hero achieve what thy set out to do? Were they successful in their quest?
Whether or not a buyer was successful in achieving their fundamental change is not always an easy question to answer. Just because the buyer agreed to the sale does not mean they were enabled to achieve their goal. It is critical to understand that what might look like success to your company may not look like success to your buyer.
This is where the risk of churn enters the picture. Green Churn occurs when, despite the health score being green, a seemingly successful client churns and Failure To Thrive occurs when the successful sale leads to hardly more than client misery. There problems at the heart of why viewing the buyer as hero matters to churn: if you don’t understand the buyer’s true goal, then data will mislead you. If your data is not supported by narrative, it can’t help you understand, or avoid, churn.
Data and Narrative: The Perfect Match
Let’s illustrate this point with a tangible example: Box is an enterprise file-sharing software company. If one was studying the metrics of a company like Dropbox – which is more consumer-oriented – you’d expect to see such metrics as ‘number of files shared,’ or ‘number of users syncing files to their desktops.’ Both are solid, logical, measurable data metrics that show clients are utilizing the product, but these metrics are not really scaled for something like Box. According to Box, when it comes to their product’s adoption in the Enterprise market, one of the primary markers of customer success is the number of file servers a company starts to decommission. Why is that? Think about it this way: The team that drove the purchase of Box are unlikely to be the people who implement it. It is only by talking to the buyer, by really drawing them out in conversation and being open about their needs and goals, that a company can begin to get a sense of what it is that will help the customer thrive. So what does that have to do with file servers? Well, in Box’s case, it is only once they start talking to the IT people and demonstrating that migrating more files to Box will help save money and manpower that they know that their client is thriving. When their client starts decommissioning their files servers, they know that the client is looking to the long-term – that they trust Box to host their files securely from here on out.
By supplementing data with narrative - by having a deeper understanding of a buyer’s real goals - you will gain invaluable insight on what will make your customer truly thrive with your product. It may seem unusual to think of that FΔ as an act of heroism, but think of it like this: implementing change is challenging. If you’ve ever tried to implement something new at your company, you’ll know first-hand what kind of obstacles can get in your way - when it was over, didn’t you feel like you’d accomplish something tremendous? Didn’t you feel just a little like a hero?
Keep an eye out for our next article on this subject, where we’ll switch from the abstract to the concrete: Now that you know you need to see your buyer as hero, where do you begin?