In the final part of my series focusing on the development of using the business case as the foundation of high value technology sales transactions, it’s worth reminding ourselves of why we even make the effort to enable a salesforce to sell business value. It’s a subject often talked about but, frankly speaking, little practiced. After all sales leaders have enough to do what with hiring, meeting the quarterly number, forecasting and avoiding attrition – don’t they?
Customer Lifetime Value CLTV
If ever any single metric drives the need for adopting business case selling it’s this one. Now used not only internally but also used by investors and market analysts as an assessment of a company’s value. The business case is the most important tool to help a sales leader to drive up CLTV.
So it makes sense to address some of the common challenges that arise when a salesforce adopts business case selling. From my experience in the profession, I’m fully aware that there are a wide variety of issues that can have an impact on the creation of a customer business case for a solution sale, but in the 30+ years I’ve spent in the field, there are five key problems to address.
Five common problems
In the first instance, customers can, on occasion, argue that they can build the business case internally themselves without your input. This is something, which should certainly be avoided as it removes your control over a critical stage of the sales cycle. Ensure you not only highlight the potential time implication this undertaking could have on the customer, but also outline your knowledge and expertise around the solution in order to bring the client back on-board with the idea of your team developing the business case. It’s also important to highlight that your team, unlike their own people, can draw upon the experiences of your existing users to identify innovations and efficiencies that result from your solution’s deployment.
There can also be occasions where the customer requests your ROI tool or worksheet with the intention of filling out the information themselves, subsequently negating the need for face-to-face meetings. This presents a number of issues, including the lack of validation on figures and a missed opportunity to develop crucial stakeholder relationships. The face-to-face meetings to gather data are a vital step and will “discover” needs and demands that remote completion of a spreadsheet cannot match.
I’ve also witnessed occasions where a sales person has built a business case on assumptions with little to no engagement with a customer’s key people. While it can be difficult to gain access to these individuals, persistence is key as proceeding without this input will result in a business case being thrown out due to its lack of credibility.
Agreement to a business case by a senior sponsor without an operational contact often delays or makes impossible meeting the key people who can provide the data. It is key to the successful outcome of the business case that the senior sponsor appoints someone with the ability to make available the right people for the data-gathering meetings.
Finally, as I alluded to in my first blog, developing a strong business case that fails to connect the benefits to the vendor’s unique technical features will be detrimental to the deal. The unintended result of this mishap is that you have given the customer the tools to justify the purchase, but also the information to go to multiple vendors for a proposal. Before any business case is progressed to presentation stage it’s vital to analyse just how well it links back to your solution’s USP in order to avoid this situation. There must be an ‘umbilical link’ between the problems being addressed and the features.
Using the ‘audit report’ to Expand a Land first order
Once a business case has been developed and a first order “the land” is won and deployed, the information shouldn’t be filed away and forgotten about. This can also be used further down the line for the follow on “expand” business or to engage a new decision maker.
By developing a brief audit report that outlines the positive results delivered by the initial implementation of the solution, in comparison to the systems or processes it replaced, you’ll be setting yourself up to cross or up-sell to the customer. In my experience, this technique has three key benefits for sales teams:
- Decision makers are provided with quantifiable evidence of the successful implementation of your solution and its positive impact on the business, which will clearly support an expand campaign
- It helps mitigate the possibility of key stakeholders only hearing of minor operational issues of the new system from end users who are, perhaps, adverse to a different way of working
- If the original decision maker has moved on, it provides a great opportunity to open up contact with the new person in charge
A robust business case is clearly a critical tool in the sales process, but as I’ve outlined in this series, it’s not a simple and easy plan to develop. Hopefully the guidance provided in these insights will steer professionals along the right paths to success.