I just read a blog entry on Nutshell.com (an SMB web-based CRM software publisher) authored by Ben Goldstein, Content Marketing manager at Nutshell CRM. The essence of the article is responses collected from several sales experts, thought-leaders and friends. The question Nutshell.com posed to them was:
What’s the most important thing you learned this year? (referring to 2018)
Among the answers provided to this question there was one that stood out. Mike Shultz, Co-President of the RAIN Group, a sales consulting firm, based in Framingham, MA said:
“One of the most important things I learned this year is that sellers are dropping the ball and failing to provide buyers with value. In our recent Top Performance in Sales Prospecting study, we discovered that 82% of buyers accept meetings with sellers, but 58% of meetings aren’t valuable. If you want to get the meeting and ultimately the sale, focus on the value you can deliver to buyers.”
This is an interesting observation, one I can validate from personal experience. Even though many technology product and service offerings are given a fair chance to be heard and seen by prospective buyers, a good number of them do not receive the acceptance they deserve. One of the reasons for that, as pointed out by Mr. Schultz, is the failure of these companies to focus on and convey the real value their products and services can deliver to their customers.
It is also fair to say that some products and services, especially from companies that lack marketing funds and skills, do not enjoy the success that other similar products enjoy, quite often with equal or even less benefits to the customer. Throughout history, many mediocre products received wide acceptance only due to clever and well-funded marketing efforts.
However, this is not what our topic today is about. Today we are discussing the loss of sales opportunities due to the inability to articulate the real value to a prospective buyer. This is particularly important with technology products, especially those engaged in strong competition with similar products from competing companies.
Technology products, and especially software applications, tend to have numerous features and benefits to certain target markets they were designed for. It is easy to lose track of time in a sales presentation when too much detail is communicated to a prospective customer, either in an initial sales meeting (in person or remotely), a web presentation or an informal sales call.
Too much detail and overwhelming reasons why this is the best product or service, is often perceived by prospective buyers as overselling, effectively turning buyers’ interest off. The same effect can be achieved by dominating the conversation and not listening to buyers’ questions and concerns. In short, you’ve communicated an endless list of features and benefits, but no real value was delivered.
I don’t consider myself a sales expert, but my understanding, mostly coming from being on the buyer’s side, is that a few strong and concise points are infinitely more convincing than an endless list of features, especially when coupled with big words and other phrases that are repeated over and over by whoever I happen to be listening to. Maybe it’s just me, but I like to make the buying decision myself, always basing it on real value, not solely on cleverly designed marketing material or a well-articulated sales pitch.
As a consulting firm in the area of corporate accounting and finance I am constantly contacted by vendors of computer hardware and software, often by competitors in the same product category. I have listened to numerous sales pitches and participated in many product demonstrations, both one-on-one and through webinars.
Most of these presentations failed to convince me that there was any real value for a company to abandon their existing solution and migrate to something different or install a product that creates new functionally that never existed at the company.
To me, when I take into consideration the many financial software solutions I have reviewed and put to practical use, there are several qualities that I look for to deliver real, discernible value.
- Complete and accurate budgets created using built-in business logic and accounting rules – no spreadsheet-like formula and function work, no links to other worksheets.
- Delivery of a complete and accurate balance sheet tied in real time to the income statement which is directly derived from the budget, hence great insight into the future financial health of the organization.
- Self-serve analytics directly linked to both the actual accounting numbers and the budget numbers with all its versions and variants.
- Little or no IT involvement and support
There are many more, but these four points are enough to convince me of the real value in a financial software application.
This is the point in the sales process where I start learning everything there is to know about the product or service, without being constantly “sold” by the vendor or pushed into making more meeting commitments or completely turned off by the vendor and their product offering. Now I want to close the sale as much as the vendor.
In conclusion, conveying real value, to prospective buyers is key to getting past the initial contact with a prospect, as clearly identified by Mr. Shultz’s response to the Nutshell.com question.