Last week I worked with a client to finalize a list of cost savings and revenue gains provided by her company’s offering. During our review, she flagged the section where I had included “sales growth” as a revenue benefit. As she told me, “We’re not allowed to include soft benefits when we present business cases internally.”
As a value-based selling practitioner, I instinctively knew what she meant. Buyers frequently have no trouble embracing what are often called “hard” or “tangible” benefits. These most often include such readily identifiable cost savings as reduced IT infrastructure, lower energy consumption and less travel. Most B2B offerings have multiple core cost savings wherein, after the offering is implemented, the identified costs go down.
Go One Step Further With Soft Benefits
Other benefits get labeled as “soft” because buyers link them to non-financial metrics and not to the value delivered. These benefits, however, should not be left by the wayside. It’s your job to create a vision that compels prospects to take such benefits seriously. Here are two examples from work I’ve done to get you thinking in the right direction.
Soft Benefit #1: Employee Satisfaction
One of my clients sells unified communications solutions. One benefit of their offering is that it boosts employee morale. How? First, their solution makes it easier for employees to communicate with 1) each other, 2) suppliers, and 3) customers. Second, the offering affords employees the opportunity to work remotely, which gives them more flexibility with their schedules. The improvement in morale can be measured by employee satisfaction surveys. But how does employee satisfaction get turned into dollars and cents? We measured it through a reduction in voluntary turnover. Fewer employees quitting their jobs meant less money spent on recruiting, onboarding and training replacement workers.
Soft Benefit #2: Customer Satisfaction
Another client of mine provides services that optimize call center routing. This optimization reduces wait times for customers on hold and produces higher customer satisfaction scores. No one would ever complain about higher rates of satisfied customers; but typically this is considered a soft metric and, therefore ,is not included in business cases. However, we were able to cite the measurable value of this metric by linking it to sales growth: improved customer satisfaction rates yield higher customer retention, greater wallet share and more new customers.
Think in Terms of “Strategic” Benefits
There are other benefits that are sometimes call “intangible” benefits. I prefer to call them “strategic” benefits. These are benefits such as reduced liability, improved governance and greater sustainability. True, it’s hard to put a number on how much reduced risk, for example, is going to save a customer. But don’t discount these benefits either. Put them in the business case for buyers to review, and explain why you think value exists.
Conclusion and Tips
How did I handle my client who questioned the “soft” benefit of sales growth? I pointed out that part of the value of her offering is that it increases employee productivity and streamlines workflows. Though the productivity gain is small on a per employee basis, it can have a larger effect when multiplied by a large number of employees. The collective time could be spent developing better customer relationships, shortening the product development cycles or expanding into markets faster. For example, if a product projected to do $50 million in annual sales gets to market one week earlier that is worth nearly $1 million in incremental revenue.
In the end, we contacted a couple of her customers to validate the revenue growth generated by her company’s offering and we included the benefit in an ROI tool. Her inside sales team is now leveraging ROI calculations in presentations with prospects to showcase the full value of their offering.
Sales growth and labor savings are the two categories of benefits that are most challenged by buyers. If you want more detail on these topics, read our earlier posts for more details on how to best make revenue gains and reduced labor costs part of a business case.