For three years in a row, the highly influential benchmark and advisory firm Sirius Decisions has reported that the number one revenue inhibitor in complex B2B sales environments remains the average sales person’s inability to communicate value.
You’d hope that we would have made more progress in solving this. I believe one of the reasons that we haven’t is that most of the effort has been spent focusing on the value of our solutions and not on the cost to the prospect of not dealing with the problem.
Personalising our value
Of course, we need to find effective ways of conveying the value of our solutions in ways that are personalised to each specific customer and quantified in terms that are relevant to their unique situation.
But that by itself – no matter how good we are – is not enough. We can out-execute all of our competitors in positioning our solution and communicating our value and still not get the order.
Competing against “do nothing”
One of the clues lies in another damning statistic – this time from the equally well-respected CSO Insights – who have consistently found that over 50% of forecasted sales opportunities are not closing at the time and for the value expected, if at all.
They go further to identify the prospect deciding to do nothing (rather buying from a competitor) as an increasingly common outcome. These “no decision” deals are consuming an incredible amount of wasted sales resource.
The costs and consequences of inaction
Why do so many apparently well-qualified sales opportunities end up in this state? I believe that one of the primary reasons is that the sales person failed to properly position the cost and consequences to the prospect of sticking with the status quo.
In short, sales people need to sell the value of addressing the issue before they attempt to sell the value of their solution. In fact, if the prospect’s Cost and Consequences of Inaction aren’t high enough, this by itself should qualify them out, no matter how good our solution fit appears to be.
Your prospects will always have far more things they would like to do than they have the money or resources to implement. That won’t stop them looking at potential solutions – but they are unlikely to actually buy anything unless their case for change is compelling.
Some of the simplest, most effective questions sales people can ask are “what would happen if you did nothing about this issue” and “who else would be affected”, closely followed by “how have you tried to deal with it before” and “why is it critical you do something now?”
If we’re really determined to fix this intractable inability to communicate value, lets start by doing a better job of getting our prospect to agree that the problem is worth solving in the first place. And let’s get a whole lot smarter about qualifying out if we can’t.
One final thought
Great buildings have to be built on solid foundations – and the same is true of great sales campaigns. Establishing clear costs and consequences of inaction – and ensuring the prospect agrees them – is the essential foundation for a successful sales campaign.
We can illuminate the compelling value of our solution far more powerfully if we can relate it to the cost to the prospect of the issue we address. If we get that right, then maybe next year we can focus on eliminating a different revenue inhibitor.