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How to Get Your Prospects to Believe in Your ROI Estimate

Posted by Darrin Fleming on Aug 20, 2015 9:00:00 AM
Darrin Fleming

Have you ever heard customers say, “I don’t believe these numbers,” while showing them the business case for your offering?

It’s not that the customer thinks you’re a liar. The problem is that many customers come to the table with existing assumptions or prejudices around benefit dimensions. Therefore, your ROI estimates can seem like pipe dreams. 

For example, they may have been promised labor savings by other vendors in the past and haven’t actually realized them. Thus, they might have trouble visualizing that realityeven though your ROI calculations, based upon their inputs and assumptions, prove those savings are possible. As a result, they either tell you they don’t think the numbers are credible and walk away, or they come back with an indefinite stall (as in: “Thanks for sharing your presentation, but we’re just not sure what we want to do at this time”).

Establishing Credibility 

So, how can you establish the credibility of your calculations, gain the confidence of the buyer, and close the sale? One of the insights we always pass along to users of our ROI tools is this: “The customer must own the numbers. You own the process.” In other words, it is their business case, not yours.

If the customer decides to invest in your solution, implementing it will likely have some ramifications. For example, the customer’s departmental budget might be cut, because your solution is now offering them a certain amount of savings in a particular area. The customer is the one who has to live with those shifts, not you. That’s why it’s imperative for the customer to believe in the business case and be willing to take responsibility for it.

Many salespeople have trouble making this mental shift, because they’re used to leading with numbers. For example, they’ll say, “I guarantee you’re going to get 20 percent savings. Here are my ROI calculations to prove that.” Because they have faith in those numbers, they take it for granted that the customer will, too. (Other salespeople have the opposite problem: they think their projected numbers are “too high” and thus make the mistake of downplaying ROI estimates.)

How to Help Customers "Own the Numbers"

Remember that customers are coming from a very different perspective. Again, they have their own prejudices, assumptions, and ideas about what’s possible and what isn’t. That’s why you want to make the discussion iterative from the very start. Start by working with the customer to assess their current situation. Then, ask the customer how much savings they believe that they may be able to achieve.

For example, you can say, “Our clients typically experience a 20 percent cost savings in this area. What do you think is realistic for you?” The customer might say, “That seems like a reasonable percentage.” Or, they may say, “We’re not convinced. Let’s be more conservative and use 10 percent instead.” At that point you can show them 1) case studies that support 20 percent savings and 2) the specific features that will enable the savings. 

If the customer wants to be conservative or change the number, don’t push back too hardeven if you’re confident about that 20 percent savings. If you try to force the numbers on the customer, you’re not going to make any real progress on that deal.

The Advantage of ROI Tools

This is one of the reasons we advocate using a value calculator (which is a simplified form of an ROI tool) to help you generate leads. Prospects can find your value calculator on your website and use it to plug in their own numbers to see whatever benefit dimensions they want. When you enter into a dialogue with someone who’s used your value calculator, you’re already ahead of the game, because the prospect already feels he or she “owns” the numbers.

The best ROI tools have an element of flexibility built into them. Users should be able to easily see more details about how the calculations were computed, and adjust factors to fine-tune calculations according to their comfort level. This helps the customer truly believe the numbers associated with the benefits you’re promising. 


Of course, ROI calculations are just one tool the salesperson can use to create trust in the customer’s mind. Customer case studies and industry benchmark data can all be persuasive assets, as well. However, most decision makers today demand a business case as part of their project-approval process.

Because benefit dimensions are the backbone of your business case, it’s key that your customers have faith that your ROI estimates paint a realistic portrait of the results they will likely get by implementing your solution. If you help the customer “own the numbers” from the outset, you’ll be in a much stronger position to help them understand the value of your solution and win the sale.

Marketing Strategies to Maximize Value Capture by ROI Selling www.roi-selling.com