To paraphrase Mark Twain’s comment about the weather, everyone talks about value, but very few people actually do something about it. Clearly value is important: Insufficient prospect perception of value is one of the three main reasons that sales opportunities result in a “No Decision” outcome.
What’s in this article for you?
- Specific value numbers are much more compelling than platitudes
- Prospects’ value numbers are much more compelling than vendor or industry numbers
- The lack of sufficient value contributes to No Decision outcomes
- How to capture and calculate specific value numbers – the Deltas
- Communicating value so that it resonates with your audience
- Differentiating via Value Realization Events discussions
“If you use our product, you’ll save time and money…!” offers the vendor rep.
“Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah…” thinks the prospect.
“When we spoke last week, I believe you said you are hoping to recover $250,000 annually as a result of addressing your problem,” says the vendor.
“That’s right”, replies the prospect, “that’s the kind of change I need to meet my objectives.”
Which approach is more compelling?
In the first case, the vendor sounds like they are reciting from a marketing brochure and it clearly doesn’t connect with the prospect (sorry, marketing folks…!). In the second example, the rep had done sufficient discovery to uncover the prospect’s perception of the value of the solution.
We can quickly understand three key ideas about value and value communication:
- Specific numbers are much more compelling than word phrases
- Prospects’ numbers are much more compelling than vendor or industry numbers
- The lack of sufficient value, as perceived by the prospect, is likely to result in a No Decision outcome
This last item is semi-obvious but needs to be called out clearly. There are typically three reasons why a sales opportunity becomes a No Decision result:
- The problem is not perceived by the prospect as sufficiently important (it is not visualized as a Critical Business Issue)
- No critical date or compelling event
- Insufficient perception of value
The lack of any one or more of these increases the probability that the sales opportunity will end in No Decision. Let’s explore how to measure and communicate value.
Value can be easily defined as, “The difference between the way things are done today vs the way they could be done (or need to be done) with a solution in place, expressed in terms of tangible numbers.”
In Great Demo! and Doing Discovery methodologies, this difference is called the Delta, the tangible assessment of the value of making the change, expressed in terms of specific units of time, people or money. For example:
- Save $250,000 annually
- Redeploy 4 FTE to other, more productive activities
- Reduce process completion time by 50%
While value can include both tangible and intangible elements, the tangible elements of value are much more important in sales and buying processes, and are much more convincing. Very simply, the prospect cannot use intangible aspects of value to persuade management to invest in purchasing software. A reasonable ROI or business analysis is required to make a purchase happen. Numbers drive purchases, not platitudes!
Many Deltas are easy to uncover and communicate. Consider the following portion of a conversation with a prospect head of sales:
You ask, “So tell me, please, where are you with respect to your quota this year?”
They reply, “I’m currently at 72% of quota – $7.2 million out of $10 million – and we’ve got about 95 more days in the year… I must find a way to get that $2.8 million gap closed!”
You smile, quietly, to yourself – the Delta is $2.8 million – a very tangible, compelling number!
Here are a few examples of easy-to-uncover Deltas:
- The difference between the project deadline and the current estimated completion date (one Delta is the number of days that the project will run over)
- The current number of leads converted vs what was listed in the marketing VP’s quarterly goals (the Delta is the number of leads needed to meet that goal)
- Current bookings vs quarterly quota for a regional sales director (the Delta is the revenue needed to meet quota)
The two types of questions to ask in these cases are:
- Where are you today? (To uncover the prospect’s current state)
- Where do you need to be? (To determine the prospect’s desired future state)
Many operations-oriented Deltas can be uncovered during discovery, conversationally.
For example, your prospect says, “It takes us way too long to complete this process today…!”
You respond, “Sorry to hear this. On average, how much time does it currently take for each person to complete the process?”
“Hmmm – I’d say about one and a half days, on average.”
“And how often does this process take place for each person?”
“Every week – it’s a major portion of our jobs,” says your prospect.
“So that’s about 50 times a year,” you comment. “Tell me, how many people are executing the process today?”
“20 folks,” is the reply.
Doing the math: 20 people x 50 times per year x 1.5 days each time = 1500 person-days.
You offer, “So, it looks like this is currently consuming 1500 days each year of your team’s time. What would you like it to be, or what does it need to be, to feel that you have solved the problem?”
Your prospect replies, “Good question – if I could just reduce this to a half-day per person, I’d be a hero to my team, and I know I’d meet my objectives…”
Ah ha! Doing the math again:
- Current Situation: 20 people x 50 times per year x 1.5 days each time = 1500 person-days
- Desired Future State: 20 people x 50 times per year x 0.5 days each time = 500 person-days
- Subtracting 500 from 1500 you get 1000 person-days – that’s the Delta!
1000 person-days. That’s the difference between the way things are today and the desired future state. Best of all, the numbers came from your prospect’s lips!
Two notes on this:
- When you comment that “It is currently consuming 1500 days each year…” many prospects will say, “Wow, I had no idea the problem was that big!” What a great way to help move your prospect’s perception of the problem from simply a pain to the realization that it is, in fact, a Critical Business Issue!
- When your prospect says, “If I could reduce this to a half-day per person…” you may know that your solution could complete the task in less time, but hold back on this. Whose numbers are they? Give yourself the ability to set expectations reasonably and the opportunity to truly delight your customer when they realize (later on) that less time was consumed than they expected.
When Should You Explore the Delta?
When many sales teams hear a prospect admit pain in a qualification or discovery conversation, the sales team thinks, “Ah ha – we have uncovered their problem, so now we can present a solution…!” Truly great sales teams hold back at this point and, instead of leaping to offer a solution, they ask a few more questions.
When you hear any of the following phrases from your prospect, consider each as an opportunity to explore the Deltas:
“It takes us forever to get this done today…!”
You should ask, “How many people are involved, how often do you do this, and how long does it currently take? What would you like it to be?”
“We have too many people focused on this…”
You should enquire, “How many people, how often, how long? What would you like it to be?”
“We have considerable project overruns…”
You should explore, “How many projects, how many overrun, and by how much? What reductions are needed?”
“I can’t get this done with the current staff.”
You should pursue with, “How many staff today, how many extra are needed?”
Any time you hear your prospect admit pain it represents an opportunity to explore and uncover one or more Deltas for that pain. Don’t let those opportunities escape uncaptured!
Translating Value to Value
There are three interchangeable expressions of value: Time, People and Money. These are simply three ways of expressing the consumption, redeployment or liberation of resources associated with solving a problem. Generally speaking, people at different levels of an organization perceive value through different filters, aligned with these three parameters:
- High Level (e.g., C-Suite, SVP, VP): These people are typically most interested in gaining or saving Money. Management needs to see an ROI analysis before they will agree to move forward with a software purchase – intangibles are rarely applicable.
- Middle Level (Sr. Directors, Directors and other Middle Managers): While arguable, these folks are generally concerned with People resources. For example, at budget time most middle managers will say, “I need more staff members to meet my objectives…!”
- Low Level (e.g., staff and individual contributors): “I just want to end my day on time…!” The team’s main concern is Time. Time saved so that they can focus on other, more productive tasks or projects, for example.
So, when discussing value, we need to articulate it in alignment with the person we are speaking with.
For example, we uncovered the following information in discovery: Solving the workflow problem will save 20 people 4 hours per person, per week, and the fully burdened cost of each employee is $150K. If we translate this into time, people, and monetary numbers for each of the above sets of players, we would communicate:
- High Level: $$ saved or gained annually (20 people x ½ Day x 50 weeks per year x 150K/~250 working days per year) = $300K annual savings
- Middle Level: # of People redeployed (20 people x ½ Day x 50 weeks per year/~250 working days per year) = 2 FTEs that can be redeployed to other, more productive tasks
- Low Level: Time saved = ½ day each time the workflow is executed
If a vendor does not uncover the prospect’s numbers when discussing value, what happens? What is the effect?
“If you use our product, you’ll save $500,000 a year…” says the vendor to the prospect…
The prospect looks skeptical but doesn’t say anything.
Have you ever seen this happen in a meeting with a prospect? Very simply, vendors’ numbers are not believable. The result can yield a No Decision outcome.
There are normally four categories of Value Numbers:
- The prospect’s own numbers
- Other similar customers’ numbers
- Industry numbers
- Vendor’s numbers
Whose numbers are most believable? Your prospect’s numbers, of course.
“I believe you said you are looking to save $250,000 a year – is that still correct?”
“That’s right,” replies your prospect, “That’s exactly our situation.”
You gathered this information during your explorations of specific Deltas in your discovery conversation with this prospect. Your prospect’s own numbers are the most compelling and most believable.
But what if you were unable to get specific numbers from your prospect, because they don’t know them? Whose numbers are next best?
Other, similar customers. That is, organizations that are perceived as peers to your target prospect. Their numbers are next best and can be very compelling, particularly for Vision Generation demos and to help discovery conversations more forward. For example:
You say, “Other customers that we’ve worked with, who are very similar to what you’ve outlined to us so far, reported that they were able to save $100,000, $200,000 and sometimes as much $300,000 each year…”
“Very interesting,” responds your prospect, “I think are likely in that same range.”
This sets you up to explore your prospect’s specific situation in more detail.
What if you have no reasonable starting point with existing customers and the value they have enjoyed? Whose numbers are next on the list?
Industry and analyst numbers, Gartner, for example. Prospect perception of the value of these numbers is pretty low, however, since they represent broad swaths of customer types, sizes, and geographies. These estimates are not particularly compelling or believable for an individual prospect.
For example, the average height of an American male today is 5’ 9” (1.77m). If you are 6’ 3” (1.91m) you would be skeptical of the claim, “Perfect size for the average man…”
And who’s numbers are at the very bottom of the list? (Let’s all say it together!) The vendor’s numbers. These are, without question, the least believable by prospects:
“You’ll save $500,000 each year…” The result? Disbelief and skeptical looks.
Note also that vendor-generated “ROI Calculators” and “Value Calculators” suffer a similar fate. Even though the prospect may plug in their own numbers, the calculations are done by the vendor, which makes the results suspect!
Great Demo! Bonus: Prospect champions that present their own Great Demo! Situation Slides that include their own numbers are the most compelling of all!
Have you ever made a major software purchase? The moment you signed that license agreement and issued that purchase order, immense pressure descended heavily onto your shoulders: The pressure of the responsibility of realizing the ROI of your investment.
When was that pressure released?
Was it released when installation took place? Likely not. What about after initial roll-out? Maybe, but only for solutions that yield immediate returns.
That pressure begins to be lifted when the person or team who made the purchase enjoys a Value Realization Event: A small victory where small, but relevant portion of the value is realized. A small, but important “win”. This is not when the full ROI of the solution is enjoyed, it is one small success along the way towards full ROI.
Consider the following vendor actions:
- Typical salespeople: Pursue the process through getting the order, then move on to the next sales opportunity.
- Good sales teams: Follows the process through implementation and “Go Live” events. That’s better, but you can go further.
- Truly great sales teams: Tracks and supports the process all the way through to the point in time where the buyer or buyer team is able to “declare a victory” – the point in time where one or more Value Realization Events are realized. The vendor is demonstrating through their actions that they are truly invested in their customers’ success.
This is called a “Transition Vision”, establishing a vision with your prospect of how they will move from their current painful situation through “Go Live” all the way to achieving documented Value Realization Events. This is a key element of Doing Discovery, and the vendor that does this well enjoys a distinct competitive advantage over vendors that do not!
That suggests a few additional discovery questions, such as:
- “How will you measure successes along the way towards your full ROI?”
- “How would you define an initial success?”
- “What key milestones or changes are you looking for after initial deployment?”
Note also that the point in time when initial Value Realization Events are realized is also the point in time when your customer will be open to becoming a reference!
Back to Twain
So, everyone talks about value, but very few vendors actually do something about it. Most vendors fail to adequately uncover and communicate value, and they suffer slowed sales processes and high No Decision rates as outcomes.
You and your organization can join the select few who do uncover tangible expressions of value, right from your prospects’ lips, and enjoy crisper sales and buying processes, and markedly reduced No Decision rates!
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