High Tech, May 16, 2005
Seal the deal with the right stuff
By Barbara Bix
Recently, five companies that had seen his company’s “point solution” at
a health care industry trade show called the owner of a small software company
to schedule a demo.
of the original callers were decision-makers. The
were technical advisors. All were impressed
with what they saw and scheduled follow-up demos
for their counterparts — who also waxed enthusiastic
about the product. Yet six months later, four of
the five had not signed purchase orders, despite the
that they continue to express interest in the product.
this scenario sound familiar? Do you have prospective
buyers who clearly need your product or service yet
either delay purchasing or fail to purchase at all?
If so, there’s a reason. Moreover, until you
find out what it is — and address the concern — you’ll
continue to miss revenue opportunities.
is busy. In fact, most people are too busy to get
around to the things they know they have to
do, let alone the things that they’d like to
do. Unfortunately, what this means is meeting an important — and
even recognized need — is insufficient. You have
to convince prospective buyers that they cannot afford
to delay purchasing.
refer to this process as developing a compelling
value proposition. A compelling value proposition
buyers’ attention. It also removes sales obstacles.
Done successfully, a strong value proposition makes
it so easy to buy that people don’t hesitate
to do so.
Here’s information that you can use to turn
your product or service from a “so what?” to
is in the eye of the beholder. The best place to
is viewing your product or service through
the buyers’ eyes. The only truly effective way
is to ask them directly. That’s because subtleties — and
variations — in how people buy can make or break
a sale. If you think you can bypass this step because
you know how your customers think, try this simple
step. Ask your current customers why they chose your
The answers, although seemingly similar, will be all
over the map. As you anticipated, some will praise
the unique qualities of your product or service. For
most, however, other factors will have come into play.
One may mention timing. Another may cite responsiveness.
For still others, a recommendation from a trusted source
may have clinched the deal. To develop a compelling
value proposition, you need all this information.
all buyers are created equal. If everyone’s
needs are different, then chances are it will prove
impossible to develop a single value proposition that
all your buyers will find compelling. The key is to
focus on the buyers that your company most wants to
attract. Depending on your business objectives, these “ideal
prospects” may encompass companies that buy quickly,
those that are willing to pay top dollar or marquee
accounts that will attract press coverage and therefore
man is an island. Once you’ve decided which
companies to target, finding out how they make purchasing
decisions is essential. Whether formal or informal,
every company has a buying process. While one person
generally plays a pivotal role, there are often other
stakeholders who influence the decision. Each has unique
will also want to understand how the product works.
Financial buyers tend to seek evidence that
the company will receive a good return on the investment
or a rapid payback. Operations personnel look for assurances
the product will be easy to use and maintain. Failure
to address any stakeholder’s concern can delay
or prevent the sale.
works better than telling. An effective value proposition
must do more than just meet stakeholders’ evaluation
criteria. It must persuade each that his or her situation
will materially improve as a result of the purchase.
It also helps to reduce buyers’ perceptions of
risk. One way to reduce buyers’ perception of
risk is to give them the opportunity to experience
the benefits they will derive when they purchase.
strategy works best for products or services that
easily test before buying. If your product
or service requires a lot of setup or training — or
it will take time for users to start experiencing benefits — you
may want to consider other approaches.
way to reduce buyers’ concerns about
risk is by helping them quantify the benefits that
they can expect. Many sellers have developed “ROI
calculators” for this express purpose. These
tools ask users to answer a series of questions that
help them model anticipated savings or revenue increases.
Calculating hard savings, using the buyers’ own
data — and assumptions that they can review — is
much more persuasive than just generally stating the
from the horse’s mouth. Another way
to help buyers anticipate the benefits they will derive
is to present them with examples of your satisfied
customers’ experiences. Two common marketing
programs that accomplish this objective are customer
case studies and customer testimonials. Case studies
relate stories about client successes. Customer testimonials
are abbreviated versions of case studies and take the
form of quotations. In a sentence or two, the customer
praises your company’s product and describes
specifics of the benefits that he or she has experienced.
from identified sources are more credible. The most
effective case studies and testimonials cite
customers’ names and companies. Especially when
they are well-known, your company benefits from the
association between your product and your customers’ brands.
Don’t keep secrets. Developing a great value
proposition that effectively addresses stakeholders’ concerns
is a good beginning. The next step is making sure prospective
buyers know what you know. Too often, the most important
aspects of products or services are well-kept secrets.
check to make sure all your marketing collateral — your
websites, brochures and presentations — clearly
and consistently communicate the value that you deliver.
But don’t stop there. Make sure prospective buyers
will encounter your messages wherever they go.
out how your customers heard about your products,
meetings they regularly attend and about the publications
they read. Since buyers don’t always have time
to dedicate to researching your product or service,
it’s important they hear about the value of your
products and services wherever they go, from those
today’s hectic world, capturing buyers’ attention
requires much more than building a better mousetrap.
Understanding — and acting on — what creates
value for each person involved in the purchasing decision
is essential to winning the business.