Editor-in-Chief Scott Goldfine suggested the topic of this month’s column, and he didn’t have to twist my arm. I live, breathe, teach and evangelize about selling the business value of security solutions. Ask anyone who has had to suffer through one of my classes. It is as easy to understand as it is hard to accomplish. You will have to qualify and work differently with prospects if you expect to sell added value in operational efficiency. Will all prospects recognize the business value you can deliver through improved operational efficiency?
Sadly the answer is no, not all of them. Professional selling is a math game. From my experience using a value-added selling approach to deliver operational business value will double your closing ratio. Therefore, it is worth the sales effort every time.
The two biggest challenges are understanding the real operational efficiencies you can offer and finding the right contacts at your prospect’s business that will recognize and buy business value. Senior management will readily acknowledge the importance of mitigating potential liability with adequate security measures. Their focus is on cash flow from their core business operation, which keeps the lights on.
When it comes to management attention, operations that make the business money are at the head of the line. Many enlightened security managers recognize this reality and so should you.
5 Rules to Show Them the Money
So when push comes to shove, who wins the funding wars more often, security or business operations?
Ah, good answer. So your focus should be on how security solutions can tangibly be connected to saving or making your customer money. Pretty simple, right? Wrong. It isn’t simple at all; however, it is possible to accomplish if you consistently follow a few basic rules.
Get to know their business and how they make money. While this sounds elementary, many systems integrators make the critical mistake of trying to understand a customer’s business from their business perspective. Assuming you know about a customer’s business is very dangerous. This approach allows you to deliver real and measurable business efficiency because it reflects the customer’s view of their business, not yours.
Get to know their business and how they lose money. While customers may at first be reluctant to talk about this one, it is vital to understand when positioning your business value solution. Many times customers accept less than optimal operational efficiency because “it’s the cost of doing business.” If you don’t know about it, you can’t bring new and value-added solutions. Try asking these types of questions: “What costs associated with [you fill in the blank] get senior management’s attention?” and “What costs [fill in the blank] cause you [middle management] to miss your budgets and goals most often?” The perfect one-two punch!
Forget about “canned” or preformulated ROI statements unless you prove them and customers will back you up. I have found that ROI (return on investment) as it relates to operational efficiency is messy, individualized and must be owned by middle management before it becomes an effective piece of the business value puzzle. Many times the customer does not have benchmarks to measure operational efficiency. ROI must often be stated as informed but estimated goals that carry some risks. That is perfectly OK. Good business people understand both risks and potential rewards if careful due diligence has been exercised.
To sell business value, you must be careful, effective and disciplined when working with your customer’s middle management teams. Having a good sales process will help with the discipline part. To be effective you must recognize building communication bridges, contending with political realities and developing consensus takes hard work. Careful focus on each department’s immediate goals as “big picture” business value may not resonate with them. Remember, who can really buy business “value” and look past purchase price? Most often it is senior management. They definitely want to see the big picture your solution offers.
Not all customers will buy added business value, no matter what you do to effectively sell it. Hey, we live in the real world, don’t we? In my experience, you have a shot at selling real business value about 50 percent of the time. Twenty-five percent of the time you will encounter experienced transactional buyers that already have standardized solutions. Another 25 percent are pure price buyers ... run away, unless that is your business model.
Look to Help Existing Clients
So can security solutions really deliver measurable added business value through operational efficiency?
Yes. While there is a great deal of emphasis on “killer applications” that promise to deliver business value, I will focus on the basics. I am old school. While this may not seem like a terribly exciting revelation, it does make good business sense.
So let me ask you an important question. Who is more likely to tell you how they make and lose money: A) A brand-new prospect that has already invited two other companies to call on them or B) One of your customers who knows you, likes your service and may be in the market for an upgrade in the near future?
Use some discretion here and confirm with other customers in that same industry segment to expand, confirm and redefine your understanding of issues with those segments making and losing money. Now, you may be on to something and it’s time to brainstorm and get creative. So what is the next step?
Try a “shared risk” pilot program to test the actual business results against targeted results over a set period of time. You will need to establish some baselines, as well as program “tweaks” to be able to quantify anticipated business results. This sounds interesting, but can it actually be done?
Of course it can, and I will share a real-life example of delivering value-added security solutions that provide business value through operational efficiency in the same solution.
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