Buyer Adoption – What is Different?

April 22nd, 2014 by Matthew Rosenhaft Leave a reply »

How do you really understand the buyer’s problem in the adoption process as they go about solving that particular problem. If you think about it, buyers don’t care about technology, products, solutions, services, etc. They start with a painful situation.

Think weight loss. I know I need to lose weight, but the pain of dieting and exercising outweighs the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. UNTIL, doctor tells me I have to do it for critical reasons or I find the pain of living with the extra weight has become more painful than losing the weight. Just because something is important, does not make it urgent. And vice versa, just because something is urgent, doesn’t make it important. The key to adoption is matching what you do to what I want AND need.

Because adoption is really not about product adoption either, it’s really about how buyers measure success and what they have to adapt/adopt to solve the root problem to their pain. Adoption to the buyer is the buyers’ recognition of pain through to resolution of the underlying problem. So the way we’ve been measuring customer experience, in the market today, is how well did I set expectations and how well did I deliver against those expectations. Buyers measure success based upon did it fix the “broken” problem. Not treat the symptoms, not deliver on something I didn’t really need.

Most of the challenges complex organizational buyers have today are not with the product or solution, it’s with their own internal team agreeing to what the systematic pain is within different departments and different groups and getting agreement to what the underlying root cause problem is, that maps to solving the pain. Most failed projects are because they treated the symptoms rather than the underlying problem.

So, by helping the buyer come to an agreement as to what the underlying problem is before you start introducing the complexity of your solution and helping them come to agreement around the problem then you are actually streamlining your sales process.  Because you’re doing problem agreement and problem identification, and then with a concrete problem, it’s easier to map your solution to that problem.

Rather than try to do both in one step, we should split it into two steps. Problem selling is about getting agreement to the problem before you start selling your solution to solve that problem. You need to map your solution to solve their problem rather than have to force them to identify what they think your solution actually solves. Your attrition in your sales and marketing is really about forcing people to come to you (conceptually) rather than making it easier to see resolution to their pains/ underlying problem. Easy, right?

The difficulty is in pre-packaging the problem to allow the buyer to match; here’s the problem prepackaged that is relevant to your pains. Given that most complex products, services, and solutions have lots of problems and combinations of problems; the risk is getting too specific that you get it wrong. Right? Wrong.

Without getting too wonkish, but online search has changed the way buyers process information. As we move towards tagging everything and automated search algorithms, you no longer are dealing with people to present information to, but rather you are having to index your information in a database that will be filtered by tags.

Resume writing is a great example of this effect. No one reads resumes anymore. Too many for any job opening. Staffing firms don’t keep a resume database of candidates that they would hand-match to their clients. (Yes, some do, but only very executive level). They search the web, filtering on keywords. If your resume isn’t keyword searchable, you don’t get found sufficient to go through the next couple of levels of filtering until someone actually reads it. Marketing is going the same way. We don’t design for human eye anymore, but rather filtering on keywords first, information value second, and then emotional connection third. Buyers don’t have time for reading tons of maybe useful information, but rather need keywords, synthesized clarity, and then validation of opinion.

By the way, if an uneducated buyer is filtering on keywords; what keywords do you think they are filtering on? Solution benefits, technical jargon, business language, emotional, generic? NO!! They will be filtering on their pain symptoms and the underlying problem diagnosis depending upon how well they understanding their pain to problem. So, what should we do?


As a buyer, I’ve predetermined the problem that I know we’re best able to solve and I’m going out looking for people I know that have that problem and I’m helping them understand what problem they really have that’s been masked by all that systematic pain, because sometimes they may have two or three different problems and I am really only able to solve one. The fact that you can tell me concretely and help me figure out which of my painful symptoms map to your problem, you set the right expectations about what you can fix and not fix.

Then it becomes a fixing conversation and you’re all about fixing problems. You’re now a problem solver rather than a guy who’s selling me a solution, that I’ve got to map and figure out on my own, whether it’s really going to solve my problem or not.

Lead with problem or not be found. Pretty much a simple formula. Now, there is room for specialized business development, market coverage, creative story-telling, etc. But, keep in mind that this should be an augmentation rather than the core of your outreach. Buyers aren’t treating it as core to their problem solving, but rather in support, clarification, or validation of what they learned.

It is counter-intuitive to think that the key to your success is letting go of your solution and embracing the buyer’s problem. But, I think it is critical to your success.

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew is a Social Marketing Executive and is co-founder of Social Gastronomy, LLC and the Social Executive Council. Prior to founding Social Gastronomy, Matthew has over 18 years’ experience as an executive in marketing, product management, and sales. Matthew has an extensive background in the SaaS Software, Social Media, Mobile, IT Services, and Telecom industries. He has prior entrepreneurial experience as a founder and executive in several early-stage venture-backed technology companies, as well as, holds several US patents for a mobile marketing technology. Matthew is a prominent blogger and regular industry speaker on social marketing and strategy topics. Matthew’s blog can be found at For more information on Matthew, you can check out his LinkedIn profile at or contact him directly at