Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

A lot of what an enterprise software sales team does with leads depends on qualification. Deciding which leads to pursue requires sales people to successfully use qualifiers. The most promising of these is some version of “this prospect’s job to be done is something my product can do and the job is mission critical for the prospect.” A find like this one provides a great start on a process likely to include the same qualification for other people within the prospect’s organization who will play a role in a purchase decision.

But what about selling products where “mission critical” jobs to be done are not so obvious? “Fear of missing out (FOMO)” can also be a promising indicator of a prospect’s interest.

Back in 1994 I sat with an ambitious manager at IBM Corporation at headquarters in Armonk NY. My manager presented me with a need explicitly driven by FOMO: “the internet has launched, but IBM isn’t driving it. We need to get out in front of the internet “yesterday” so, if nothing else, markets see us clearly as one of the leaders.” The job to be done? Staff up IBM with HTML coders and online editorial content writers as quickly as possible. My firm ended up winning this business and, for the next 6 years, we were the dominant staffing business servicing IBM’s “human capital” requirements in this area. Forty eight members of our staff provide services to this “cutting edge” need of IBM throughout 1999 alone.

But FOMO can also prove to be a misleading clue. If other components are missing, a decision to buy a product to simply get on a hot product’s bandwagon might lead to an initial purchase, but not to annual renewals of subscriptions to SaaS/IaaS/PaaS, or annual maintenance agreements for on-premises software. In these cases products can literally just sit on either a physical or virtual shelf somewhere and never even get installed.

What are these other components? Simply put: they vary from opportunity to opportunity.

Looking back on my experience with my manager at IBM, FOMO was also connected, very clearly, in her mind, with an even stronger purchase driver — IBM must get into the position she had targeted. Succeeding at this journey was mission-critical. She had assessed the potential demonstrated by the early internet and concluded the “information super highway” express train wasn’t going to stop any time soon-in fact, she knew it would attain “warp speed” and, if IBM didn’t get going right away, the opportunity to get on board would vaporize. She also had already fought the good fight with very senior managers above her at IBM and won their support for a purchase decision.

Ironically it is “mission-critical” for the sales team to go beyond unearthing FOMO as a purchase driver and test the strength of a prospect’s interest via other avenues.

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