Purpose-built value selling tools are designed to simplify sales enablement and build trust between your organization and its prospects and customers. The most valuable tools can provide strategic insights into how your customers do business, and help them understand the risk and cost of continuing “business as usual.” Value selling tools can also accelerate the sales process and help you close more business with greater confidence. So why don’t more organizations use them?
An organization’s first experience with value selling tools is often with homegrown tools. When budget is a concern, companies try to save money by developing tools in-house using Excel or other office productivity software. While they may save the up-front cash investment, they typically end up spending more in the long run. Often the thought process around how customers receive value is limited and data verification is lacking so ultimately, the spreadsheet doesn’t meet its objectives.
The ability to simplify complexity is one of the most significant differences between spreadsheets and professionally developed tools. Although the creator tries to find the fine line between simplicity and complexity in the spreadsheet, it’s often too complex for sales. At the same time, it lacks the degree of sophistication desired by the product managers. Nobody is satisfied, so again, all parties ultimately abandon the spreadsheet model.
The difference between homegrown and professionally developed value selling tools is like night and day, and that difference impacts your professional credibility with your prospect. This post demonstrates how managing complexity is key to realizing the strategic, financial, and customer engagement benefits inherent in expertly developed tools.
You’re meeting with a prospect and it’s time to justify the investment in your solution. Do you open a well-designed screen with a simple, concise user interface, or send the results of a complex spreadsheet? Which do you think looks and feels more professional?
Many sales reps recognize the danger in sharing spreadsheets with prospects and avoid doing so wherever possible. At first glance the spreadsheet may look impressive, but it isn’t long before the prospect starts picking it apart and becomes confused by its inputs and calculations.
Because sales reps are sometimes intimidated by the intricacies of the spreadsheet, they aren’t comfortable answering the prospect’s inevitable questions or fixing issues on the spot. So their best course of action is to export the spreadsheet data into a report, possibly with graphs and charts, and then share this well-intentioned effort with the prospect.
This seems reasonable until you consider that the output provides no insights into its source data, with no opportunity to dig down into the details. It also takes time for the sales rep to export the results into a new document, reducing productivity and taking time away from more lucrative sales activities.
Contrast this to a single screen in which you enter a minimal number of key data points into fields that are easy to understand. The simple user interface allows sales reps and prospects to gather the most pertinent information, while complex details, assumptions, and calculations are smartly hidden from view for the moment. Once the initial responses are captured, the sales rep can generate the first calculations with just a few clicks.
In response to prospect questions and feedback, the sales rep can examine the individual data points that support the initial calculations. Inputs, assumptions, and calculations can be tweaked as needed without exposing the prospect and sales rep to more information than they can digest.
The result? Your sales rep is empowered and confident, your prospect trusts the results, and the sale will more readily advance to the next stage.
Every prospect wants to know how your value selling tool calculates its results. Ideally, it should be simple and safe to reveal the underlying industry, product, and company-specific assumptions that drive its calculations, as well as the fundamental calculations.
This is not easily accomplished with a spreadsheet. Both sales reps and prospects can be confused by the spreadsheet’s complexity, and no one really knows what the creator intended. It’s especially risky to tweak information and modify calculations, which can produce even more questionable and erroneous results. Without adequate insights into the calculator itself, it’s hard to instill confidence in the value of your product.
Professionally developed value selling tools should be pre-populated for rapid results, and designed with drill-down capabilities throughout. Their underlying complexity is mitigated by a friendly user interface, a minimal number of initial inputs, and simple navigation. Sales reps and prospects can safely modify one data element at a time to produce more accurate results, all without risking the integrity of the calculation.
After guiding a prospect through your value selling tool, the expectation is that you will quickly and efficiently deliver accurate results with the depth of information that your prospect will require to make their business case for budget approval. These results are the culmination of a thoughtful and strategic process, and hold great promise. How you derive and present them can make or break the sale (and the sales rep).
Once again, spreadsheet-based tools tend to be risky and overly complex when it comes to inputs, as well as outputs. Instead of clicking a button, your sales rep must spend time generating one-dimensional results that offer no insight into how the numbers were calculated. And if the results aren’t helpful or don't garner your prospect's trust, it’s more likely to hurt your chances of winning the deal than help.
Professional value selling tools produce instant, high-level summaries that allow the sales conversation to progress with confidence. When prospects request insights into specific results, you can easily move from the summary to more detailed information without unnecessarily revealing the underlying complexity. This approach ensures the accuracy of your results, and allows you to personalize your presentation for the prospect.
Light and darkness. Night and day. Whichever polarity you use, it’s clear that the differences between spreadsheet-based and professionally built value selling tools are significant, offering compelling reasons to consider upgrading homegrown tools. Simplifying sales enablement with contemporary tools ensures adoption, improves sales results, and promotes trust between you and your prospects.
Different types of value selling tools are available to facilitate each phase of the sales process, further empowering your sales reps. Whether you are upgrading from obsolete spreadsheets or introducing value selling tools to your organization for the first time, consider their strategic importance in meeting strategic goals and improving customer engagement. Then use this calculator to evaluate the business case for a do-it-yourself vs. professionally developed ROI value selling tool.