Sales & Marketing

How to Win the Software Bake-Off

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I don’t know about you, but the Food Network seems to be on all the time in my house, and with two young girls, it’s no surprise that “Cupcake Wars” is one of their favorites. The show pits four aspiring bakers in a head-to-head contest to see who can create the most inspired cupcakes for a specific client event. A winner-take-all bake-off. So what do cupcakes have to do with your IT sales and marketing? Everything.

Establish a vision

In “Cupcake Wars “each baker works against the other to win a single client’s business for a specific event. Right from the start, it is essential that the baker’s vision and that of the client’s align — in presentation, design and flavor.

The contest is most often won or lost at this stage. The baker that can best listen to the client’s needs and objectives and align the end product but, at the same time, “challenge” the client — breaking the status quo of what a cupcake is all about — will most often be crowned the winner.

Selling your IT solutions is probably not too different. According to Forrester research, an overwhelming 65 percent of all deals went to the sales teams that established the buying vision. In particular, the team was able to clearly and credibly answer the question: “Why Change?”

But we all know that convincing more skeptical and frugal prospects that change is “worthy” is easier said than done, especially because most are comfortable sticking with the status quo rather than investing in proposed changes.

So how do you break this status quo bias? We recommend that you:

  1. Challenge your buyer by identifying an issue of which they might not have been fully awar
  2. Quantify the “cost of doing nothing” to prove that this issue is worth addressing as a top priority
  3. Demonstrate the clear contrast between the current way they operate and what your solutions can deliver.

Manage the priorities

“Cupcake Wars” is a race against the clock, as the cupcake bakers are under extreme time constraints to produce not just one special cupcake but an entire batch for the client’s event. In order to succeed, the bakers have to carefully and diligently manage the entire design-through-delivery process. Time is of the essence.

Similarly, time can work against your IT sales teams. For those less diligent about managing the process, your prospect’s immediate urgency begins to fade and other priorities begin to creep in. After all, buyers are “doing more with less” and constantly at odds with where to invest ever more precious funds.

The key to address stalled decision processes is to continuously provide evidence to the buyer to answer the question: “Why Now?”

However, most sales teams fall short, evidenced by how many of your deals stall or where the buyers disappear. SiriusDecisions confirms the challenge, indicating that the #1 reason sales professionals fail to make quota remains the “failure to communicate and quantify value.”

The need for value selling is clear, as continued economic malaise means that your prospects are more focused on the economics of each decision. And the financial diligence process is more complex than ever, with more financial and procurement oversight, and more stakeholders involved in each decision — 10 involved in the average IT decision according to IDG. Value is in the eye of the beholder.

These frugal buyers need to clearly understand what’s in it for them and the bottom-line contributions and superior returns compared to other potential investments already on their plate. Yet the majority of sales professionals fail to meet customer expectations, remaining challenged to communicate and quantify the value of solutions.

To better manage the process, keeping your decision as a top priority, your sales teams should:

  1. Quantify and prove that the proposed solution delivers significant business benefits and savings and provides a superior ROI and faster payback than other projects they are considering
  2. Deliver more relevant value propositions for each different stakeholder in the decision making process, providing unique benefit quantification for the diversity of most decision-making teams today (now averaging 10 different stakeholders per decision
  3. Provide testimonial and other evidence to prove that the superior returns are real and verifiable.

Win the taste test

In “Cupcake Wars” the vision may be divine and the execution perfect, but if the cupcake doesn’t taste good, the spoils go to a competitor.

Your IT sales teams can do a great job during the early phases — establishing the buying vision and driving the prioritization — yet fail to competitively prove that your solution delivers superior value. Although not as critical as establishing the buying vision, Forrester indicates that 35 percent of decisions are won or lost during the competitive “taste test” phase.

This critical step provides answers to the question “Why You?” You can best answer this by:

  1. Proactively quantifying that your solution provides a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than competitive solutions
  2. Quantifying the incremental value your solution provides — the additional cost avoidance, productivity improvements, revenue / margin — compared to competitors
  3. Proving that it is easier to achieve the proposed business case with your solution versus competitors — assuring less investment risk and better value realization.

And for many sales teams, particularly SaaS providers, the sale does not end when the contract is signed. The taste test continues beyond the initial sale and relies on a continued focus on adoption, proper usage and best practices, and ultimately value realization. Quantifying the realized value is crucial — tallying and comparing the achieved cost avoidance, productivity improvements, revenue and margin gains, and other tangible benefits versus goals and expectations.

The bottom line

OK, so winning at “Cupcake Wars” might not be as tough as selling an expensive IT solution to a skeptical group of frugal stakeholders, but it does provide some lessons we can all learn from and a roadmap to drive sales success:

  1. Establish a vision — Answer “Why Change?” by challenging the status quo and quantifying the “cost of doing nothing”
  2. Manage the priorities — Continually prove “Why Now?” via superior ROI, faster payback compared to other investments, and unique value proof-points for each stakeholder
  3. Win the taste test — Validating “Why You?” by proving lower TCO / superior value and better value realization from the initial “yes” through renewals.

Tom Pisello is CEO and Founder of Alinean, empowering B2B vendors to Fight Frugalnomics, connecting, engaging and selling more effectively to today’s economic-focused buyer via the development and delivery of interactive value marketing and selling tools.

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