Is the way we pitch our OSS broken?

A couple of facts about the OSS market that you’ve probably already noticed – It’s highly fragmented and the selling cycle tends to average 12-18 months. This means that cost of sales and cost of acquisition are a source of frustration for each side of the equation.

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to have regularly sat on either side of the OSS buying equation. I’ve worked with vendors / integrators to help them market their solutions, on pre-sales and on creating demonstration platforms. I’ve also worked with customers to help guide them through the buying process. [Not on both sides at the same time though of course!]. Oh, and I’ve worked with internal teams trying to get new projects up within their own organisation too.

To be honest, not a single one of those engagements has resulted in a streamlined, satisfying result for both parties. Satisfied that a deal has been struck indeed, but not completely ecstatic with the outcomes. This, in addition to the two starting facts above, tends to suggest that the process is broken – that neither side of the equation has found alignment with the needs of the other (although that is one of the things that I try hard to establish).

I recently viewed Simon Sinek’s TED talk, “Start with Why,” which is encapsulated in the diagram below sourced from Emma Bautch’s page.
Simon Sinek's Start with Why.

It provides some hints into WHY the process is broken:

  1. On the buying side – the customer tends to know their WHAT and be good at describing their HOW (a list of feature-based requirements that they ask the vendor to respond to), but don’t always have a great understanding of WHY they need their new OSS or how it supports the organisation’s WHY
  2. On the selling side – the vendor tends to be adept at showing off a million features (their WHAT / HOW), but not at deciphering the customer’s WHY or aligning with it

Tomorrow we’ll look at whether a well constructed narrative might just be the bridge between the two sides.

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