I’m sure many of us have been in meetings where the executives in attendance quickly lose interest. Either they start checking their phones or, worse yet for the speaker, they abruptly end the meeting. Why does this happen? One of the main reasons is that not everyone is speaking the same language.
This doesn’t only happen in the world of sales presentations and buying committees. It’s also pervasive in marketing collateral and sales messaging. Audiences tune out because the content is not directly relevant to their interests. Oftentimes, the mistake made is focusing on an offering’s features and specifications. Why does this happen? Because it’s the easiest crutch for marketers and salespeople alike to lean on.
The solution is obvious -- speak the same language as your customer, though doing so requires some advanced planning. Let’s consider the three types of business leaders you will encounter and how to craft a strong message that resonates with each type.
1) Line Managers
While department heads do care about feature and functions, that consideration only goes as far as to determine whether your offering meets their requirements. That’s a given. Nobody’s going to buy a pizza oven if they only want to cook hamburgers. Beyond that, they want to know how your offering can help them do more with less. If you want to win them over, you ultimately need to quantify how much your offering is going to help them grow revenue and / or save money. You can use case studies to offer supporting evidence and value selling tools to calculate your offering’s projected benefit.
2) General Managers
These executives have P&L responsibility and care about the numbers. What they don’t care about are white papers, product data sheets, demos, etc. Instead, focus on providing the measurable financial impact for your offering.
Create a business case showing how their business will better operate with your offering in place. Don’t leave it to them to try and figure out themselves. You will also want to transition your messaging from the department level to the line of business (or functional area) level. As these executives are going to have a broader view than the line managers you first encountered, you will want to leverage an ROI tool to organize the benefits into appropriate categories and reflect the impact on the overall business.
3) Executive Management
When deals need executive management approval, it is critical to provide a thorough financial justification. These executives, often CFOs (or others in similar roles), have the instincts to ask key critical questions about the business case. They will ask questions such as what is the payback period, what is the impact if implementation takes longer than expected, and what is the best/worst case. Failure to know the answers is a deal killer (you’re only going to get one chance with this audience).
These executives control the purse strings and evaluate not only the merits of your offering, but how it stacks up to other potential areas of investment. Financial metrics such as net present value, ROI and internal rate of return become important in any executive discussion. An expert ROI tool automatically calculates these metrics and helps your audience make an informed investment decision with confidence.
Your ability to speak the same language as your audience, and connect with them on their level, relies on delivering the appropriate message. Features and functions talk will only get you so far. As you navigate upwards through a prospect’s organization, a sharper focus on your offering’s value proposition is essential for success.