In the second part of my series on the role of a business case in driving a high value customer transaction, I’ve turned my attention to the process of how best to manage them. With over 30 years’ experience in the sales profession – including time as VP of global sales – I’ve been privy to multiple approaches to this, but in my view, the below procedure will result in the greatest possible chance of success.
Allocate resources and assign activity
In order to deliver a winning business case, creating a role for a dedicated Business Analyst or Business Value Engineer is crucial. These subject matter experts will be the ones responsible for working directly with customers in order to build the business case, working in tandem with the sales teams in a client-facing position.
It’s important that those in these roles create and update the tools needed to carry out business case work, including:
- Value discovery questions and range answers
- Financial models to collate and analyse the customer’s data
- References of existing client’s benefits
- A library of anonymous completed business cases
Data is critical when building these profiles and proposals. Typically, this part of the sales process will proceed as follows:
- The main customer sponsor of the project (if not themselves) assigns an empowered person to assist with the arrangement of data-gathering meetings
- Key interviewees are identified
- The required data to drive the business case is defined
- Data is gathered
Of course, it’s never as simple as this – particularly when it comes to diarising times with already busy individuals – but the four steps are the general basis to the data gathering stage. Having these face-to-face discussions is key to collating the information needed for a strong business case, particularly given that, in most instances, these individuals will influence buying decisions. Developing these relationships at an early stage in the sales process and demonstrating your empathy with them will build trust in both you and your solution. As well as data gathering there is an opportunity to reinforce the solution benefits and in so doing build a coalition of supporters for the solution.
Once you have collated the information, an early draft of the business case – using a spreadsheet – should be presented and discussed with the customer sponsor. Remember, the key is to demonstrate significant value and be able to get the sponsor to agree that:
- The data presented is accurate and the business case is strong enough to progress with the sale
- The benefits of the solution address C-Level stakeholder objectives and priorities
- That delaying the decision will result in costs being incurred or growth targets missed
- The business case shows that the value of the solution is greater than the risk of change or taking no action
- The potential risks are quantified based on probability and severity
- A costed and resourced deployment plan is included
- The information outlined is suitable to be presented to main stakeholders, with the sponsor present in order to legitimise the business case
Once the proposed new solution implementation has been presented, the deal enters the riskiest stage of the process: negotiating the agreement. Of course, all of the previous work will put sales professionals in the best possible position to argue the reasons for the investment, but with large value customers often requiring greater involvement from C-Level decision makers, discussions can be both complex and lengthy. For example, contingency clauses can sometimes be requested that stipulate dependencies on projected case results being achieved which, if agreed by the vendor, can make the transaction non-compliant with revenue recognition.
While this is the stage where some sales professionals might feel comfortable enough to relax, it’s crucial to avoid complacency once a deal has been signed. As is often the case with large value customers, multiple deadlines can be agreed that, if not met, will see a penalty clause incurred. It is crucial that sales professionals maintain contact with the client and the delivery team in order to ensure implementation is as swift and smooth as possible.