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What To Do When Decision Makers Ask Tough Questions

Posted by Darrin Fleming on May 9, 2017 9:00:00 AM
Darrin Fleming

decision makers tough questions

Decision makers can and will ask tough questions. Sometimes those questions can catch  you off guard, BUT only if you’re unprepared.

The savvy sales team knows these questions will come up as the sale progresses; they also know what to say before and when (not if) these questions are asked.

Here are four tough questions and statements decision makers can present as you move to close the deal, and suggestions for responding effectively.

PRO TIP: Value selling tools can help you confidently take a meeting with the CEO without breaking a sweat.

Labor Savings? Prove It! 

How many times are companies sold a solution based on the premise that it will reduce   payroll costs, only to be disappointed in the results? I don’t want to “labor” a  guess, but it’s been often enough that executives may hesitate to buy the hype based on words alone. 

So when you come along and say you can provide labor savings, they are likely to  respond: Prove it!

Keep in mind that most labor savings are achieved through: 

  • Reduced headcount
  • Reallocated resources
  • Deferred hiring 

Before that big meeting, prepare your business case using these common methods to build your presentation: Start with a solid understanding  of your prospect's business. 

Ideally, you want buyers to directly provide you with their own numbers so you can plug them into your ROI tool, and develop a custom report that will more accurately reflect the anticipated labor savings for each functional role. When they provide the numbers, they are more likely to trust the results.

It’s likely you will be left out of the budget discussions, so the ROI tool can help you prepare the stakeholder to defend the solution to the financial decision makers. 

The ROI tool allows you to drill down to specifics and make changes on the fly so you and your buyer can collaborate to arrive at the projected result. 

Procurement Says No 

Why would procurement even care? Because history has primed them to say, “No.” 

Many procurement managers have been burned by unsatisfactory or unused purchases made by internal clients. In their minds, these were wasteful decisions made at the last minute with little investigation; the promised benefits were never realized. So they default to “no” because the CFO is unable to link the benefits you name to a department budget’s bottom line.

Instead, procurement hears, “If it will save that much money, we can deduct it from next year’s budget,” or something similar. The buyer is unwilling to commit to a level of confidence in the benefits and delays or kills the sale. 

A value-selling approach explicitly defines benefits and links them to the purchase. Procurement and finance generally don’t trust seller-generated value models because they think the models are based on unrealistic assumptions. 

The best ROI tools use the customer’s own data to create a compelling case, proving the benefits are real. Additionally, they give the buyer visibility into the rationale behind the numbers, and provide the ease and flexibility to make adjustments to build the buyer’s confidence in the projected results. 

If you can’t get prospect data, you can also leverage data from similar customers to develop your point, and then ask the prospect to confirm whether the data is inline with their numbers. 

We Can’t Use “Soft Benefits” In the Business Case 

So-called “soft benefits” tend to be those the buyer links to non-financial metrics such as: 

  • Employee satisfaction
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Reduced liability
  • Greater sustainability 

It’s up to you to connect the dots between these soft benefits and financial returns. For example, increased employee satisfaction is often measured by a reduction in voluntary turnover, reducing new hire costs. What’s more, increased customer satisfaction can be reasonably linked to customer retention and increased sales. 

Ask your buyer how much it costs to train one person in a role that will be directly affected by your solution. Remember to include recruitment costs, onboarding, and training. 

Using your ROI tools, multiply the decrease in cost by the number of employees retained and you can see the hard benefit behind one aspect of employee satisfaction.

Then, point out that reduced liability, greater sustainability, and improved governance actually lead to strategic quantifiable benefits even though they are perceived as intangible or “soft.” 

Finance Won’t Agree

What appeals to financial decision makers? Numbers. Lots and lots of numbers. Guess what value selling tools give you? That’s right, all the numbers the finance team desires, using their own data.

This shows them the numbers were not pulled from thin air and will carry greater weight; it will also demonstrate to the CFO that you’re offering a solution justified by a compelling business case.

Part of your job as a value seller is to educate your buyers and help them realize benefits—be they hard or soft—to actual cost savings or increased revenue. 

At the end of the day, the best ROI tool has the flexibility to provide spot-on numbers that the customer will buy into.

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Topics: ROI Tools