You can get closer to customers with specialist business value management software, as it helps you avert time wasters and get bigger and better deals.
Can you think of a few occasions where you lost a software sale to a direct competitor at decision time? Or maybe you lost your customer because it appeared like you were inactive or doing nothing? – but you find out after exactly why your customer opted out and consequently you were left feeling like they wasted your time. Software sales are really hard, and often lengthy.
When customers are reluctant to engage
In software sales sometimes it’s tough to engage your customers. Often, this is because they are hesitant to talk in any depth about the business impact of a solution. This can signal that your prospect isn’t very serious about your offering. But the customer may just be looking around for ideas. Or, possibly, they are gathering several competitive quotes together and are looking for the cheapest deal. And it could be for many other reasons. For instance – as we touched on with our opening question – a bad experience in the past where a vendor built a business case with the customer, but the process took up way too much time and gave the customer nothing meaningful in return, so they decided not to go ahead. Or maybe you didn’t clearly draw the lines between your solution and the value in money it could bring your customer.
So, how do you deal with these customers?
Making them understand the reasons behind the value engagement journey you want to take them on isn’t easy. In our experience, the easiest way to find out your prospect or customer’s agenda is to give them an outline of the effort required on their part and estimate the time a meeting with you will take. It’s also worth letting them know the primary focus: that you want to discover the value drivers.
When you give them the right information at the start it will help your customers to trust you. And trust always helps you to get closer to customers. Another point to add in here is that it’s a really good idea to give your target customers some examples of your reports so they know what to expect to follow the meeting, or to make it very clear what will be next. This approach is called value selling. To learn more, please check out our blog.
Do you let your customers know how much their decisions might be costing them?
The secret here is to skim over your offering at the beginning and get right inside your customer’s head. This is value selling: understanding a prospect’s real business needs. Focusing on your solution is simple, but you need to focus on the money too. The benefits come when you can show how much value in money you will bring or save your customer.
In software sales, we all love to talk about our amazing products. But with value selling it is possible to shift the psychology of the sale and understand your customer needs and goals. This sounds like guesswork, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. When you can show your prospect the money, or value drivers, you will encourage them to talk. Then you’ll find out their pain points and be able to see any gaps between your solution, the current situation and your customer’s business objectives. Armed with this information, it’s so much speedier and easier to see if your solution and your customer’s anticipated contributions could reduce the gaps.
How do you get closer to customers?
Collaboration and engagement are what value selling is all about. Most of us don’t like to spend our money on things without knowing what it will do for us. And this is even more the case if what we are buying is expensive and differentiation from other products in the same market appears to be very small. In software sales, your customers need to be confident that your product or solution will fix their real-life business problems to go through with the sale.
Fear of the unknown can play havoc on both sides. You may be afraid of a negative business case and, in your attempts to achieve a positive business case, your customer might feel under pressure from the smoke and mirrors. A classic smoke and mirrors tactic is for a vendor to build a data-filled, super complicated spreadsheet that is really hard for a customer to follow. Transparency is massively important. Using specially built business value management software will help you to share credible and clear-cut sales documents with your customers.
How using the best software can help you get closer to customers
Special value management software offers a more effective and collaborative way to help your customer appreciate the value of your solution. It frees the time for you and your customer to talk about the real business problems they are facing. When you make your value obvious you will in turn make your story stickier. And when you’ve got your prospect hooked into the idea of your offering, they will want to get involved and share their real problems. Problems that your solution could really help them with, driving up upsell cross-sell. Great software gives you more insights and way more leverage.
The best software means that you can focus on all the benefits. And you won’t have to worry about remembering the right questions or how you came to the number conclusions, because the software takes care of that all for you.
(The examples in our pictures are from the Shark Finesse matrix (copyrighted)).
Another advantage of using software that is specially made for value selling is that if the business case is negative, you will find out early on. Generally, the whole process of building a business case with a target customer will only take a couple of hours. And when it becomes clear early on that there’s no value from the solution, you and your customer can back out of the sales engagement, no offence caused. This allows you to keep credibility but to move on to more fruitful opportunities, without wasting anybody’s time.
The thing is that, even with the best software, you’ll still need to warm your customer up for the business case. So, you’ll need to be prepared!
What needs preparing?
- Do some background research. You may have already done your research if you’re part way into the sales cycle – but you might also need to do some more if, for example, you are up-selling a customer to the cloud.
- You need to look at your customer’s financial reports and strategic goals. This information will help you to form a framework and delve in deeper (you can do this with the business case preparation feature in the Shark Finesse software package.)
When you have taken these steps, you and your customer won’t have any unwanted surprises. Another thing to note is that, ensuring transparency here also offers your prospects a window to gather together any missing information or data before your meeting. This helps you to get closer to customers as it puts them at ease and gives them the chance to feel much better prepared for when you’re building the business case.
What other ways does the right software help you get closer to customers?
Another way you can get closer to customers is to use the business case as a snapshot of the benefits to be expected. We know that things change fast in the world of technology and software sales, and it’s pretty obvious that some benefits will take longer to realise than others – or can take longer than expected. And also, the benefits can often vary from those set out at the start. But the thing to remember is that business cases should be fluid, and changes are to be expected as you and your customer learn more and gain confidence in each other.
When you present a credible case as a baseline, you can build another case post-sales and carry out a review. This helps you to look at aspirations alongside achievements after a certain time period. So then you can see any areas for improvements. A progress review with a customer completes the value management cycle. Reviews are usually carried out at 6-to-12-month intervals, for as long as it remains useful. When your customer knows that you will be back to review, they’ll know they aren’t being left to fix any issues that crop up. This promotes shared responsibility for your solution’s success, which will help you to get closer to customers.
How do you deal with anti-sponsors?
When you’re building business cases, it may involve anti-sponsors too. And you will need to plan for this scenario. Else you could be facing a really awkward situation. You know the type of customer – “my team are the best of the best and our business runs really because of them.” Well, if that’s the clientele that you’re facing, it’s really good to be able to show them how you can benefit them in other areas.
One thing to be careful with is that you don’t trigger a negative response. Because if you shine a light on some unexpected benefits, you might end up revealing areas of underperformance. And no one wants to be told they’re rubbish. A really successful way around this is to under-call your solution benefits. This will leave both parties looking good as the solution is rolled out. Always leave the space to realise more; over-estimating doesn’t serve agendas!
To sum up
The right kind of software offers more opportunities for you to get closer to customers and build long lasting relationships. We use Shark Finesse software alongside our value management expertise. And based on our experiences, here are some of the reasons why we think it is the best:
- The Shark Finesse comparison feature brings the review stage into focus.
- The software can be used together with your customer. This design allows so much flexibility and makes it effortless to shape the business case with your customers.
- Updating your figures in Shark is really easy. It isn’t complicated like other spreadsheets; it’s as transparent as glass and free of deceit. (This benefit helps us to get closer to customers, stops them from being put off by the numbers and enables us to build the most advantageous business case).
- Shark allows you to long out your solution benefits. This extra time gives everybody the implementation space; you can reap the benefits after roll-out.
- Last but not least, this software can also calculate the cost of delayed decisions and “doing nothing”. With this, your customer will see the real value picture very early on.
Shark Finesse software is an enterprise-grade platform. It will cover all your business case needs and manage all your business engagements. You’ll no longer have to spend time searching for your last purchase justification either. Shark takes so much strain out of ROI discussions.
If you’d like to know more about how Shark Finesse software can help you, or how you can get closer to customers presales and post-sales, with specially created tools that can automate your processes and ensure a successful value management practice, please check out Shark’s posts on LinkedIn.
Thanks for reading!
At The Value Search Team, we can build, operate and scale your value management practice. Any time, and from anywhere. Can we help with your software sales or your value management practice?
If we can provide you with any support in your digital transformation journey, or if you have any questions on the topics we discuss in our articles, please direct message through the ‘get in touch’ link to contact a specialist member of our team.