By Jim Naro, CustomerCentric Selling® Certified Business Partner
Selling complex or intangible technology requires that a sales person can fully understand what kind of benefits his or her offering can bring to a customer. Financial benefits are important, of course, and there have been tools developed to measure these, including the Profit Improvement Proposal (PIP) by Mack Hanan, author of Consultative Selling. This was the precursor to the return on investment (ROI) calculators and cost/benefit analysis spreadsheets that are used today.
However, today a link is missing and that is the ability to apply benefits, particularly financial ones, to specific selling situations. Marketing provides initial support to sales organizations with pain/solution messaging. However, the messaging often generically bundles benefits such as “reduces costs” with other benefits. It then becomes a struggle for a sales person to apply that messaging to a specific sales situation he or she may be involved in. A sales person needs to clarify how costs are reduced, for example, and identify what specific costs are being affected and show what other impacts may occur as a result of implementing the solution.
For instance, consider this simple example. Say a company is manually producing invoices and the sales person is positioning an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The benefits are many – productivity, accuracy, and improved cash flow, to name just a few. What if the sales person had a way to use weighting for each of these and focus on the real impact or value of the solution for that specific buyer? After all, not all benefits are equal from customer to customer. One customer might value productivity while another may value cash flow more. The ability to add weight to each of these benefits also provides an opportunity for sales people to capitalize on the highest value benefits and use them as key differentiators in competitive positioning.
Here’s how a system like this would work:
- Consider the ERP solution above. Automating invoicing is a primary feature that has an effect on key measures such as revenue, expense, profit, time, cash flow and so on. Where there is an effect, there is a potential benefit. As mentioned above, automating invoices can potentially improve accuracy, productivity, and cash flow.
- Now, rank the benefits of automating invoices with a score of 1 to 5, with 1 being low and 5 being high. In the example above, improved accuracy may have a high value (scoring a number 5) on revenue, while productivity scores low (a number 2) for a particular customer. Another customer may rank both cash flow and productivity as 5s.
- To see the weighted value, add up the scores. This weighting for each feature will make it very clear which benefits are most meaningful to a customer.
- Create an excel spreadsheet or similar document to track the value ratings for each feature. The value columns are a way for sales people to have a quick reference of what features to focus on in their conversations with buyers.
When the weighted scores are identified early on, they can help validate opportunities in the pipeline and assess which deals are really worth moving through the sales cycle. The scoring system can also help facilitate and enhance any cost/benefit and ROI conversations as well. This exercise should be considered dynamic, as the value of a particular feature and, therefore the weighted score, may change over time.
This system will also help marketing and sales refine and create measurement questions that can be asked during the discovery phase of a sales cycle and add value to marketing messages overall. It also helps bring to light the most competitive advantages of a product or solution.
Once the scoring system is fully developed, it can also be used by product development teams to enhance potential functionality and prioritizing where development dollars should be spent.