At any time, every one of your sales prospects are likely to be able to identify - with or without your help - any number of issues or needs they would like to see addressed. They may be very happy devoting their time to investigating potential solutions. But unless the problem is so significant that they cannot afford not to deal with it, they will almost certainly end up deciding to stay with the status quo. Here’s why - and what to do about it…
You may recognise this as one of the key initiatives I referred to in “Resolution #1 for 2012: Fight the Flab in Your Sales Pipeline”. But the subject is so important - and so essential to successful sales qualification - that I believe it is worth further exploration. By the way, I am assuming that you’ve already identified - and got your prospect to agree - that they have an issue they would like to solve, that your company can offer a credible solution, and that they are engaged and want to learn more.
But - if you are selling a high-value solution - that is unlikely to be enough. The reason is simple. If your prospect cannot monetise their pain - and the impact on the rest of their organisation - they are unlikely to be able to build a strong enough business case to get the project approved by their colleagues. No matter how much they happen to like your solution. And no matter how strong the apparent ROI.
Spend Less or Sell More
What do I mean by monetising the pain? It involves associating the issue you are talking about helping them solve with a clear cost to the business. That cost could either involve them spending money unnecessarily, or missing out on an opportunity to sell more. And, unless you have happened on the CEO’s pet project, or your solution is so inexpensive that it does not require board-level approval, it’s that simple. You have to equip them to spend less or sell more.
Elevating The Cost of Inaction
But even that isn’t enough in today’s risk-averse buying environment. For any large scale high value purchase - and particularly if this is a considered or incremental purchase rather than the replenishment of already-required supplies - your prospect will need to be persuaded that the cost and risk of inaction far outweighs the cost and risk of change.
In other words, they need to come to believe that doing nothing is actually the most expensive - and risky - option. Effectively, you need to conduct two sales: the first involves persuading your prospect that they cannot afford not to address the issue. The second sale involves persuading them that your solution offers the most cost-effective, low-risk approach to solving the problem.
If you win the “second sale” without addressing the first, the most likely outcome is that you will get selected, but you won’t get bought. Even if they have agreed that your solution has an impressive ROI, if there isn’t a strong motivation to do something rather than stumble along with the status quo for another quarter - or even indefinitely - that’s exactly what is likely to happen.
Helping Your Prospect Monetise Their Pain
After observing a number of top-performing sales people and sales organisations, here’s what I recommend you get your sales team to do: it’s critical that they avoid the temptation to jump straight in and start to propose a solution when one of their prospect reveals an issue that you know you can address.
Instead, they must use the opportunity to dig deeply into the underlying causes and consequences of the pain. They need to understand:
- What has caused their prospect to start searching for a solution
- How the issue is affecting them, and what the measurable consequences are
- Who else is affected, and what the measurable consequences are to them
- If and how they have tried to resolve the issue before, and with what results
- What might have changed to make this the right time to solve the problem
- How the issue relates to the organisation’s current strategic priorities
- Whether the issue is on the CEO’s agenda
- How much it is costing them
- How much revenue they may be missing
You probably won’t capture this all in one session. You need to use the opportunity to navigate your way up and across the organisation to the other people and teams that are affected. And at the end of the day you need to have got find a way to monetise their pain - and to get them to agree the calculation.
If you can combine a strong economic case for change with a compelling value proposition, you’ll have positioned yourself to win. Without it, you expose yourself to the risk of being selected but not being bought - the most wasteful and frustrating of all sales outcomes.
Sales Leadership Action
Review every opportunity in your current sales pipeline. Insist on having a documented cost of inaction for every deal. Where none exists, coach and work with your sales people to create one. And be wary of forecasting any opportunity where the cost of inaction is unclear.
And if you're interested in elevating your overall sales and marketing effectiveness in line with the latest best practices, you might also like to invest 10 minutes in benchmarking your sales and marketing organisation against the winning habits of many of today’s best-in-class companies by following this link.