The Unexpected Reason Enterprises Choose BonsaiBrian Pedersen, Head of Sales • in Sales • 5 min read
Every year, our company rhythms have us step back in December to rest and reflect. We don’t ship any code, the sales org comes up for air, and we write. While 2020 was the year of all years, from a business standpoint, we saw a continuation of our 2019 growth trend—more and more large enterprises bringing their search to Bonsai. This piqued our curiosity, and we set out to understand why.
Tl;dr: We found that prospective customers chose Bonsai because of their buying experience. In particular, they liked how we utilized the skill of facilitation.
Facilitation aims to explore and unite groups around a challenge, solution, idea, or goal. It is an underrated and underutilized skill, not just in business or sales. Buyers want to be helped, not sold.
In this post we will look at the method we used to uncover this philosophy, and how it affects the buyer’s experience.
Surprising Revelations from JTBD
We started by asking ourselves what we could learn from the 30% of our customer-base who switched from the large hosted search providers. Why were Fortune 500 companies trusting our 14 person company to manage their mission-critical search environments? This is where the Jobs To Be Done interviews came into place.
These discussions focused on the timeline of events and struggling moments the buyer went through which led them to actively look for a new solution and ultimately make a purchasing decision. One of our Fortune 10 interviewees said in the first meeting something to this effect:
“If search isn’t flawless, our CEO will call us on a Sunday night expecting it to be fixed. This cannot happen.”
What did this company (now customer) and the others we interviewed say? They talked about the reliability of the platform and our amazing support. But we were surprised to learn that our sales process was a recurring theme.
- “Bonsai was less pushy and addressed the real technical issues, kept it open. Not just pushing for signatures [like Competitor].”
- “I thought it would be more fun to work with your team.”
- “Every interaction added value.”
Discovery is the Backbone of Facilitation
Our team has a strong culture of Discovery & Learning because it’s baked in as a core value. Every function of the company benefits from it. An excerpt from our Employee Handbook:
Learning is the acquisition of skills and knowledge, often driven by asking questions and demonstrated by the ability to ask better questions. Discovery is the use of questions to identify unknowns and to make better observations, particularly useful in design and troubleshooting. Questions are the heart of creativity and authenticity as well as for Discovery.
Discovery manifests in our approach to sales. In a recent Discovery Call with a new company in our pipeline, they recounted a consulting engagement with a competitor. This engagement left the prospect feeling insecure with the reliability of their cluster composition, as their business was rapidly scaling.
We asked a few questions about their situation and the nature of the consulting work. We casually advised them on their sharding schema and indexing strategy—the likely culprits that were overlooked by the consultants. We also offered our opinion on settings that would resolve their immediate pain points and then went back to questions about their needs and goals for search.
This is common practice on our calls. We do not gatekeep our expertise. Helping people is rewarding in and of itself. It gives buyers an accurate taste of what it’s like to have Bonsai manage their search.
What Does Facilitation Look Like?
Imagine you’re on an introductory call with a vendor for billing software. You’re interested in a more automated solution to save you time, and this vendor has a product that sounds like a good fit.
The sales rep opens the call with the obligatory chit-chat about the weather. Then they launch into a slick presentation about their company, their history, sprinkle in some well-known logos, and end with a laundry list of features and benefits. The presentation frustratingly finishes with, “what questions do you have for me?”
In all my time leading sales at Bonsai, we’ve given—maybe—three presentations. Some people just expect them, but I’ve never found them to be that meaningful. In our experience, buyers need to hear from the right people at the right times. We need to orchestrate that and facilitate the conversation in such a way that everyone gets what they need by the end of the meeting.
All of our Discovery calls include an experienced search engineer who is available to identify root issues. We collaborate with the buyer on the best path forward. We work on it together, go at the buyer’s pace, and respect their process.
Always Be Collaborating
The facilitator is interested in helping the buyer make a good business decision. They are not interested in closing people.
Common sense, right? The sales profession needs a bit more common sense in how we approach those interested in our products and services. We have doubled down on this approach of facilitation and discovery, and continue to see well over half of prospective buyers choose Bonsai.
What do you think? Do you prefer the traditional approach with Powerpoint slides? Does facilitation make you a more effective influencer in your role? Tweet us at @bonsaisearch!