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Howard Dion
Sales Process Consultant
Bensalem, Pennsylvania
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Become an Return on Investment (ROI) Seller

Think about the simplicity of this statement. Human beings make buying decisions for only one of two reasons. They believe they can gain a benefit or they believe they can avoid loss.
Written Feb 16, 2012, read 1197 times since then.


The Opening Premise

Think about the simplicity of this statement. Human beings make buying decisions for only one of two reasons.  They believe they can gain a benefit or they believe they can avoid loss.  When the decision maker understands the benefits directly attributable to your deliverables, you have an increased probability of closing the sale. Or, when the decision maker understands what risks can be eliminated or significantly reduced, you have an increased probability of closing the sale. Take note that I did not say you would close the sale; I said there is an increased probability of closing the sale.

Sounds simple enough, right?  In reality, it is complex.  You must first identify the buyer’s pain points and then help the buyer crystallize the source of the pain.  You must also identify the personal and or business agendas that are driving the decision making process. Finally, you must be able to illustrate the positive business impact of your deliverable on the appropriate Key Performance Indicators that are linked to the pain points. 

To become a Return on Investment seller you must understand this thinking and must get really good at asking challenging opened ended questions that uncover the required information.  You must also be good at relationship development and be able to build rapport and trust in a very short period of time. From my point of view what helps move the process along is a sales language; words that you can focus on during the sales process.

The Language

  • Business Function:  A commercial or industrial enterprise can be broken down into separate business functions that when viewed together represent the whole enterprise. Sales & Marketing, Finance, Human Resources, R&D, Quality Control, Customer Satisfaction, and Information Technology are all business functions.
  • Pain Points: These root drivers originate in a business function that is considered vital to achieving a goal, objective or strategy. When there is a malfunction, when something does not meet expectation, there is pain. Although the pain can originate in one business function, it can spread and impact other business functions as well. When the pain gets severe enough, the owner of the root driver goes to market and looks for a solution to the problem.   
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the statistical links to the pain points. KPIs are the metrics that define success and failure.
  • Personal Agenda: These prime buying motives impact the well being, or personal desires of the individual.
  • Business Agenda: These prime buying motives impact the success or failure of one or more business functions. 

Below is a short story, which I hope, will illustrate my point of view.  

The Story

Harry is a Seller Doer. He sells consulting projects and then delivers what he sold. Three weeks ago, he responded to an inbound lead that surfaced on his company’s Web Site.  He made contact the next day and discovered that the potential buyer was looking for a consulting firm that could help with a specific operational problem. The prospect’s name was John, and is the president and owner of the company. Since John’s office was in driving distance, Harry pushed for a face-to-face meeting.  Below are the highlights of what happened during that first onsite meeting.

After a brief introduction, Harry asked John why he was looking to hire a consulting firm. John explained that he wanted to invest money in his business so he could expand his footprint to the west coast of the United States. “However”, he said. “I do not want to borrow money from a bank.  I want to improve my profit picture so I can fund the West Coast expansion internally over the next twelve months.”  Harry and John then talked about the Key Performance Indicators that John saw a problem.  Harry was not surprised when John said, “I need to increase billable hours and reduce administrative costs and staff overtime hours.”  Harry could have stopped there, ended the meeting, returned to his office and submitted the proposal by the end of the week.  But that is not what he did. Instead Harry asked John two challenging ‘why’ questions.

“John, I have two questions.  First why are you against borrowing money from a bank, and second, why are you so focused on having a footprint on the West Coast?”  John leaned back in his chair and was quiet for a few minutes.  Harry said nothing; he just waited for John to reply. After a minute or two John answered the questions. If Harry spoke first, he probably would have let John off the hook and the conversation would have gone in a different direction.

“I need the profit dollars for marketing and if I have a bank loan, I won’t be able to invest as much in marketing.”  In addition”, John said, “my most dangerous competitor just opened an operation on the West Coast. The owner of that company and I worked together in the same company when we got out of college. The fact that he got the drop on me makes me angry.  Actually”, he said, “that fact is very motivating.”  Harry and John continued to talk for another forty-five minutes and here is what Harry learned as a Return on Investment Seller. 

The business functions at play for this deal were marketing, sales, customer service, and technical service delivery.  The pain points came from flat revenue growth over the last couple of years, and lower than expected profit margins. The critical KPIs were revenue growth and profit margins.  John’s personal agenda was very specific. He wanted to beat his old friend in the market share game. The business agenda was not about opening an office on the West Coast as originally presented. It was about being able to control his business so he could execute his desired growth strategy.

Harry told John that he wanted a day or two to think about their discussion, and scheduled the second meeting before he left John’s office.  At that second meeting Harry presented the Return on Investment KPI; the amount of new business sold during a twelve month period after the opening of the West Coast office compared to the investment made with Harry.  Together, they came up with three KPI metrics based on John’s profitability goals; dollars sold that would be below expectation, dollars sold that would meet expectation, and dollars sold that would exceed expectation.  They also agreed to expand the consulting agreement to include sales process training, which Harry quickly outsourced to a colleague when he returned his office.  By closing the sale, Harry became the collaborator that was destined to help John succeed. 

Learn more about the author, Howard Dion.

Comment on this article

  • Marketing and Graphic Design Big Idea Guy 
Overland Park, Kansas 
Michael Irvin
    Posted by Michael Irvin, Overland Park, Kansas | Feb 17, 2012

    I'm all about asking questions as Harry was with John. Asking the right questions and making the client think through his decision is an effective coaching tool.

    Thanks for the article.


  • WordPress and vTiger CRM Developer and Consultant working in Seattle and Phoenix 
Seattle, Washington 
Christine Ely
    Posted by Christine Ely, Seattle, Washington | Feb 17, 2012

    I rated this article a 9.

    Very interesting and involving processes which I believe are essential to effective marketing/sales. This article is worth reading twice.

  • Sales Process Consultant 
Bensalem, Pennsylvania 
Howard Dion
    Posted by Howard Dion, Bensalem, Pennsylvania | Mar 07, 2012

    Although three weeks have gone by, I would like to thank Michael and Christine for their comments.