ROI selling: The 8 habits of highly effective salespeople

Fundamentally, customers buy your ROI, not your technology. This principle is at the heart of the eight habits of highly effective salespeople.

Habit one: Sell ROI wrapped in a business case

If you were starting a business now, you wouldn't show up at the bank without a business plan. Capital is scarce and cruelly expensive. Why would you expect your technology product, service or project to get funding without a very good business case. And remember a business case is more than an ROI calculator found on the company intranet. It has an economic analysis at its heart, but needs more: business managers want to see how your project will help their business. You are selling them an opportunity to improve operating performance. Ultimately, customers buy ROI, not technology.

Habit two: Pinpoint the pain

Collapsing capital ratios and shaky solvency means clients needs are fundamental, not frivolous. And your proposal needs to address critical needs. Think acute, not chronic. You need to find the complication that forces action. Enormous investments in customer experience initiatives are unlikely, when the other side of the balance sheet is mostly toxic assets.

Habit three: Diagnose like a doctor

Following the pain metaphor, when you walk into clients, you need to sound like a doctor, not a management consultant. When a doctor hears a set of symptoms, they diagnose the problem quickly. The doctor arrives with a point of view on the problem. Walking into a client with an eager "consultative approach" of "tell me about your problems." This is true "provocation-based selling" and will lead to an early return to the parking lot. Far better, to think through how you can help the client improve their performance and do this with enough rigor that you can walk the client through an expected business case.

Habit four: Price intelligently, not desperately

Price is the communication of value. If you discount your technology 70% because it's a recession (or it's quarter-end), then, that's your value and your message -- desperation. The standard price list becomes just a reference to discount against and has nothing to do with value. A more intelligent approach is to quantify the value your technology will deliver in a business case. Then, base the price on a percentage of this value. A 10 to 50 percent share of the benefits (depending on who is taking the implementation) risks will far exceed any price driven by desperate discounts.

Habit five: Think turnaround

Boiled down, when the turnaround advisors from the likes of Alix Partners or Alvarez and Marsal, show up they will focus on four things, all beginning with "C". First, cash, where does it come from, where does it go, and how do we conserve it. Second, the core business, what is it, what's its economic rationale, and how do we improve it. Third, costs, how do we reduce them and make them more effective. Fourth, capital, how to conserve it and increase its return. All four "C"s are useful in thinking about how to make a proposal that appeals to recession-locked clients.

Habit six: Make commitments, not claims

Traditional technology selling, in shorthand, tells the client: here's the technology, we will help implement it, and we hope you get the outcomes we claimed. Weary buyers will happily listen to vendors who are willing to make performance commitments, rather than promises. This does require rigor though. Performance commitments need grounding with evidence of, and business case benchmarks, for performance improvements. Again, the turnaround advisors are an interesting model. Often, they negotiate hourly fees and a percentage of improved net income performance measured by EBITDA. See our performance improvement glossary what is EBITDA?

Habit seven: Think clearly and write crisply

One positive aspect of recessions is they force focus on the fundamentals. Meaning what you say and saying what you mean is one of those fundamentals. Vague value propositions and long-winded white papers (with no quantification of business value) are not. Enough said.

Habit eight: Keep pounding

The Duke of Wellington felt "hard pounding' was the key to a successful battle. It's the same in a recession: Never giving up, just sticking in there and doing what you have to do.

Good luck!

Sign Up for occasional book and blog updates.