Updated: Oct 18, 2018
In the technology world, it’s incredibly easy to get distracted in blinking lights and flashy tech. Many people in sales and marketing roles struggle to strike the balance on what ultimately matters most. What does the customer need? Why do they need it? And how will they get there?
According to a recent Hub Spot survey, 6 in 10 customers want to discuss pricing on the first call. What is this telling sales teams? That your inability to create value up front for the business has devolved into commoditized pricing requests. While most sales people agree this is among the most frustrating part of the sales engagement, few spend the time and invest the exercise in change. I’ve always believed that if you don’t create value for the business, someone else will. A salesperson needs to choose where they want to be in that position and conversation.
I’ve spent most of my career in sales, marketing, and strategic story telling roles. I love getting together with friends and peers from different industries and frequently compare notes. Almost universally, people begin telling their differentiated story in some deep, technical element. If you understand the customer’s problem, you can quickly make the inference on the solutions value proposition. If you don’t understand the problem, then you get a stream of babble that doesn’t make sense and potentially utterly lost.
Why do tech sellers find themselves so often in this position? Here are a few realities. First, a tech company’s crown jewels are typically the tech. Therefore, sales teams are instinctively conditioned and taught to differentiate on the tech. The reality is that all tech eventually moves towards commoditization. Differentiating on tech alone is a losing proposition unless the end game is winning in a commoditized space. A second reality is, tech sellers are good at tech! They understand why that algorithm or DSP is magical and can explain that in spades. The reality here is that if you can find the right people, that sign checks, and make things happen in the business, you are likely already a masterful business value seller.
Here’s where it boils down. The essence of creating business value with tech lies in the ability to create a tangible benefit for the business. What’s a tangible benefit? It’s a benefit in which the business, because of using that technology, gains an appreciable ability to differentiate, innovate, or accelerate outcomes. Technology alone doesn’t create outcomes. Using technology in proper context creates opportunities to create outcomes. The magic occurs when the right technology can be leveraged for outcomes, intentional or unintentional.
Business use cases are, by definition, the functional activity or activities that will be done during day to day motion. Finding the right technology that is aligned to improve a process or create an advantage is the responsibility of the sales person. Here are a few ideas on how to get started:
1. Know the customer’s business. You can’t be an expert in everything. You just need to know your customer better than your competitor. Most sales people won’t spend time understanding the business. I would spend time learning about how your customer makes money, drives profit, and innovates. These are relevant areas to improve.
2. Look for Improvement Opportunities. Think of this like accessing your physical abilities during a workout. What’s giving you the most pain? As a runner, I know when its time for new shoes. And so, it goes with your customers. Learn about the struggles and look for the opportunity to add value through an informed and educated recommendation.
3. Formulate hypothesis. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to have an idea that can improve your customer’s business. Dig in, take key stakeholders to a breakfast or lunch. Learn from them how they are doing things, so you can evaluate the possibilities you might be able to return. This is where value begins. Proactive consideration and ideas!
4. Think like a business leader. As if it were your own money, consider the question, “would I be inclined to make this same purchase for my own business?” If it can’t pass your own, “sniff,” test, then don’t even try to present the case. You will have no passion it’s possibilities, let alone it’s believability.
The key to formulating great business use cases starts with a fundamental mindset shift that the only thing that matters is your customer’s outcome. And businesses need great ideas from amazing people who demonstrate a willingness to put in the work to be relevant in the customer’s world. This isn’t about being a know-it-all as much as it is about becoming a humble student of your customer’s business. Your customer wants it! And to all those in sales not sure about getting started…if you don’t start, somebody else likely already is. Don’t get out maneuvered!