I talk to lots of people about their value propositions and the business cases they have presented for their solutions. People seem to talk the talk, but in reality, I see few people really focusing on the business value of their solutions.
Part of the problem is many customers don’t seem to want a business case, they just ask us, “What’s your best price?” But that’t no excuse. If we only respond by providing pricing, then we will win or lose on price. It’s our responsibility as sales professionals to help our customers understand the value our solutions brings–convincing them to evaluate every alternative based on the business case.
Sales people need help in developing their business acumen skills. It starts with training and coaching—sales managers need to put in place training and coaching programs to help people develop these skills. Programs that help them understand business basics–how businesses work, basic financial analysis, how to develop and present cost justified solutions. I find it interesting that for the hundreds of sales skills programs that exist, and the billions spent every year on sales skills training, there are very few programs that develop the business acumen skills of sales professionals.
Marketing and product management have important contributions, as well. Product training and related materials and collateral need to help sales people present business justified cases. Questioning guides that help people understand key performance issues, justification guides, industry/market guides, and other materials that extend sales’ understanding beyond features and functions.
Sales people need to take personal responsibility as well. Start by dusting off your B-school books. If you never had any formal training, go take a few basic business and financial analysis courses at a local college. Make sure you understand business fundamentals.
There’s a great new resource to help sales people develop their business acumen skills. It’s a new book called “Bottom Line Selling” by my friend Jack Malcolm. It’s a great resource for all sales professionals and should be a desktop guide. It takes you through many of the fundamentals of understanding your customers’ business, how to leverage financial analysis both to determine problem areas, but also to help present business justified solutions. It provides insight on tools available on the web and how sales professionals can leverage them to improve their ability to present business value. Make sure you get a copy of this great resource!