Dunvegan Blog

Simulation in the B2B Sales Process

Simulation in the B2B Sales Process

By Anne Miner

President, The Dunvegan Group


In the B2B world where complex solutions are pervasive, sales teams are challenged to identify the customer’s “pain point”, position their product or service as the optimum solution and persuade the customer to make a purchase.

A product demonstration is a critical component of the sales presentation offering customers the opportunity to test the product’s performance before deciding.

In a world of disruption and exponential change, there is risk that tomorrow, or at least before the product has been delivered and installed, there will be something better available.

Companies often guarantee upgrades and product enhancements to mitigate the risk of rapid obsolescence and ensure that the customer always benefits from innovation.

But, when it comes to services, particularly consulting services, the sales person may present flow diagrams, testimonials, and case studies but how often do they simulate the process and let the customers experience the outcomes they can expect?

It seems to me that simulating the experience is more likely to create trust and confidence in B2B customers/clients. Having experienced the process/solution, leaders will be better able to evaluate the anticipated outcomes and articulate the rationale for engaging the chosen consultant.

At The Dunvegan Group, we have incorporated simulations into our sales process; the first step is a no charge simulation using generic data. This leads to a small fee contract simulation using real data gathered from the client’s own customers and employees.

Simulations allow our clients to mitigate their risk by investing a small amount, to experience our process first-hand, before committing to a larger program.

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Is Your Voice of the Customer Program Being "Gamed"?

How often have you heard, “When you get the survey, be sure to give me a 10.”? Or, “If there is anything that would prevent you from giving me a 10, please tell me and I will fix it.”? When employees endeavor to boost their satisfaction or NPS® ratings by pressuring the customer, you will not get an accurate read on the strength of the bond between your company and your customers.

This is the risk you face when deploying Voice of the Customer programs that utilize 0-10 rating scales and single question measures. We have seen it happen in companies with the best of intentions and more frequently in companies that attach some portion of compensation to ratings or scores based on customer feedback.

To counteract the risk of inaccurate measures, The Dunvegan Group has adopted two practices:

  • Use of semantic scales (e.g., words) rather than numeric scales (e.g., 0-10), and
  • Use of a composite measure (e.g., multiple factors) to evaluate the likelihood of customer retention/defection.

Through rigorous research, across multiple B2B categories, The Dunvegan Group has identified three critical factors indicative of customer retention/defection, and a method to avoid the potential for internal personnel to game the system.

Service Excellence: Customers expect to experience a high level of service excellence when dealing with B2B Enterprise companies.

At the highest level, customers intend to continue to do business with your company AND they are willing to recommend your company when asked.

Providing your customers with service excellence in doing business with your company, and an experience worthy of recommending your company when asked, is first factor in retaining customers; however, it may not be sufficient to keep your customers coming back.

Pain Tolerance: Change occurs when the pain of the situation is greater than the pain of making a change.

Your customers will tolerate a degree of poor service as long as the pain of making a change exceeds the pain of putting up with the situation.

This is the second factor in retaining customers and the first hurdle for customers who are receiving less than excellent service. It gives your company an opportunity to remedy the situation and rescue the business before the customer defects.

Competitive Choices: Change occurs when there is something more appealing than the current situation.

This is the third factor in customer retention and the second hurdle for customers who are receiving less than excellent service. When customers perceive that there are no better options, despite experiencing poor service and a high degree of pain, they will not switch.

When your customers perceive that your competitors offer goods and service that are at least as good/better than what you deliver, customers may switch despite experiencing a high level of service excellence.

By measuring these three factors, using a non-gameable method, The Dunvegan Group’s programs identify the strength of the bond between your company and your customers. You will see which individual customer contacts are strongly bound to your company, which ones are at risk of defection and everything in between.

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How to radically improve problem-solving in your organization!

In the January 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR)[1], Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg demonstrates the power of “reframing” problems to identify optimum solutions quickly, consistently, and effectively.

He begins with an example that illustrates the importance of framing the problem.

When tenants complained that the elevators were too slow, meaning they had to wait for the elevator longer than they could tolerate, the obvious solution was to replace the elevators ~ a costly solution that would exacerbate the problem during installation.

When the problem was reframed as, 'the tenants are bored while waiting for the elevator', a more cost effective and timely solution presented itself; give the tenants something to occupy their attention or entertain them during the wait.

Have you noticed that most elevator lobbies and elevators themselves have mirrored walls? It turns out that people are happy to look at themselves (their reflection) while waiting and this opportunity effectively reduces the perception of a long and boring wait for the elevator.

So, how do we go about “reframing” problems to ensure that we explore all potential solutions?

Wedell-Wedellsborg recommends methodically applying the following steps:

  1. Establish legitimacy for the idea: Demonstrate the power of reframing to your team. The elevator example is a clear and simple example, or you can present them with a copy of the HBR article.
  2. Bring outsiders into the discussion: Whether from other areas of your business or external consultants, an “outsider’s” fresh perspective can be very helpful. These people will help to illuminate the options but cannot be expected to develop the solution.
  3. Have the individual team members define the problem in writing: This is to be done before you commence the reframing exercise so you can see the range and variety of definitions and ensure that the team is prepared to take responsibility.
  4. Ask “what’s missing?from the problem definition: Be sure that you have considered the full scope of the problem.
  5. Consider multiple problem categories: Ask “what type of problem is this?” A production problem? An attitude problem? A perception problem? An incentive problem? Can the problem fit into multiple categories? This may present several alternative solutions.
  6. Analyze positive exceptions: Identify positive outcomes achieved in previous problem-solving efforts. Consider what was different or unique about those situations and how you may apply the learning to the current situation.
  7. Question the objectives: Identify competing objectives or objectives that are out of alignment; reframe the problem to encompass all the objectives.

Having reframed the problem in one or more ways, it is time to gather evidence to support the reframed definition. Test your hypothesis using recognized research approaches: observation, surveys, prototypes.

Continue to refine the problem definition and the solution until you are satisfied.

To learn more about how you can apply reframing techniques to problem-solving in your organization, please contact Anne Miner, President of The Dunvegan Group toll free at 1.888.281.3074 or anne.miner@dunvegangroup.com


[1] “Are you solving the right problems?” Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, HBR January- February 2017 page 76-83

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