Tip #1: Understand the Customer
First, you should research your customer and its industry. For example, you could find information about its desired business outcomes on a high level by reading shareholder communications available online. You should also research the individuals with whom you will be meeting and who will be the key decision-makers regarding the buying process. You could use LinkedIn to obtain facts that suggest an individual may be more risk-taking or risk-averse. For example, a person who has a profile that suggests they are “progressive,” “transformative,” or a “change agent” would be more likely to be a risk taker. If you are trying to sell technology that is disruptive or would be a change to the customer’s status quo, you might want to approach the risk-taking executive first to convince him or her to serve as a champion who can introduce your offering to the other stakeholders.
Tip #2: Leverage Your Knowledge
Use all of the research that you have compiled in order to construct a business case that is best suited for the customer, its relevant stakeholders, and the industry. However, don’t get hung up if you do not know that much about the specifics. In this instance, you can utilize best practice and industry templates that will automatically incorporate intelligent defaults. For example, if your customer is a health care institution and you are selling a cybersecurity solution, you could utilize publicly-available data specific to healthcare, such as the cost of a data breach, the number of records breached, and the likelihood of a breach.
Tip #3: Have an Outcome-based Conversation Early
Sellers often reserve business cases and other quantifications of value that will be delivered to the customer for the later stages of the conversation, such as the price negotiation phase. However, if you showcase value earlier, you can take the conversation to a higher level and gain more trust with the customer, which in turn may reduce discounting.
Tip #4: Keep It Transparent and Collaborative
The underlying facts and the calculations used for each component of the business case should be easily accessible and transparent to the customer. You should also invite your customer to collaborate on the business case. For example, Ecosystems’ Interactive Business Cases are collaborative by nature – they are part of an online platform that is accessible and editable by the customer in real time. The customer’s stakeholders can then also share the business case internally to others who have influence in the buying process or to management in order to justify the spend.
Tip #5: Use a Convenient Format
The reports that Ecosystems generates from our Interactive Business Cases are available in Microsoft Word, PDF, and PowerPoint formats so that you may send them in the way that is most convenient for the customer or your presentation. We have seen business cases attached to a brief summary email, taken to a customer meeting to be the centerpiece of the conversation, or printed and shipped. You can also always present the business case in its interactive, collaborative format via a laptop computer or other mobile electronic device.
Tip #6: Make It Scalable by Using Best Practice Templates
Given the collaborative nature of creating a winning business case, you will have gained key insight into your customer in the process. For example, the customer may have asked you to delete certain line items, stating that they do not apply in its industry or to that type of deal, so you may want to omit those moving forward. Conversely, certain outcomes and means of measuring the outcomes may have really hit home with the customer. You also may have collected certain data points from the customer that you can later use as intelligent defaults. In order to scale your winning approach, it is a great idea to memorialize successful business cases as best practice templates for your own use and to share these with your team or sales organization. They can also be utilized by other areas of the organization; marketing could use your templates to create targeted materials for prospects, or sales enablement could use these to train new sales professionals.
Tip #7: Remember, It’s Not a Silver Bullet, But Your Effort Goes a Long Way
Inevitably, some of your business cases will be deleted or never read by your customer. Generally, though, the response from the customer tends to be positive, as the customer typically appreciates the effort, transparency, and educational benefit. In one of the more successful scenarios, an account manager that used the Interactive Business Case compressed his sales cycle by about 50% and was able to prevent discounting as a result of showing value up front.