Cost savings are not a value proposition in of themselves. During the 2008 / 2009 economic crisis Gartner sales executives ran a promotion where we offered our end user clients the opportunity to renew their Gartner subscriptions for free if we were unable to uncover at least double their renewal fee in potential savings during a series of inquiry calls. This naturally resulted in an explosion of inquiries across the board with the support services team experiencing an increase in call volume of well over 300%.
Due to the historic level of neglect and chaos within end user organizations related to the hardware support discipline we were invariably able to find cost reduction opportunities that dwarfed the customer’s Gartner subscription fee by 10 or 20 times (sometimes by even more)… Having got the caller’s acceptance of the magnitude of the proposed cost reduction play (and thereby ticking the value objection handling box for my friends in sales) I would then routinely ask if they planned to implement our recommendations. I lost count how many times the VPs of IT Operations and Data Centre Managers I was talking to said “No”. To begin with I was shocked and a little dissappointed by this, but then my natural curiosity got the better of my bruised ego and I started to dig a little deeper to try and really understand why these callers had expressed no intention of realizing these savings.
The reasons given for non-adoption varied considerably:
- “I haven’t been asked to save money there”
- “I’ll keep that in my back pocket in case I need to make more cuts later”
- “I’d have to get agreement from too many people within my organization”
- “It will mean changing our internal processes (and that is too hard)”
- “The return isn’t worth the pain”
- “I have too many other things on my plate and don’t have the time to do it”
- “I’m not prepared to bear the additional risk, however small”
All of these reasons were 100% valid and reasonable to the people that gave them. “Sandbagging” is widely recognized as a real and common problem within sales organizations. But I would suggest that it is a behavior that exists everywhere to some degree. The people I was talking to are your customers and your prospects. They are human. People are people. They have their own personal challenges and personal objectives. They have fears, hopes and dreams just as you do. Unless you manage to align your value proposition to their specific circumstances and make it readily consumable and appealing they won’t go for it. Even if you do, they may still resist. Getting them past the tipping point of apathy to action is a significant challenge.
Always remember, it’s “What’s in it for them?” that matters. Not necessarily what’s in it for their employer? Doing what is right for the individual may not be the same as doing what is right for their employer. In an ideal world you will be able to offer a win win scenario. But sometimes you will have to do what is right for your customer in the hope that you will be able to help them to understand how you can help them to help their organization in the future too.
In reality you may need to position a minimum of two stories. The official party line for corporate wellness improvement that will be used to explain the rationale behind the decision internally and the highly personalized and personal story for your buyer (or buyers).
Don’t be surprised if you giving a prospect the opportunity to be a good corporate citizen doesn’t always motivate them to buy or adopt. Instead, consider how can you make your buyer personally successful? What are their personal success criteria? Can you help them to achieve what they want to achieve? How can you materially improve their day to day lives?
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