CONSTRUCTION | INNOVATION
Enabling collaboration through client-led business cases
It is the age old question that is the undoing of many sales people, “so...how much does it cost?”...before leaping in and answering this question it is essential that there is a solid business case for the sale first.
23.8.2018 // 4 minute read
It is the age old question that is the undoing of many sales people, “so...how much does it cost?”...before leaping in and answering this question it is essential that there is a solid business case for the sale first. Many buyers are cagey about showing their cards and providing the detail required to do this, all they want is a quote. In this article I am going to present why producing a business case is mutually beneficial, not just for the vendor but also the buyer and therefore (I hope) is of use for both parties either side of the fence.
What is a business case? A business case is a written proposal to educate and inform a decision making process with a set call to action. Within this article I am referring to a business case produced by a vendor to aid the purchase of a product or service by an end customer, and more specifically recurring revenue solutions within a SaaS model, rather than a purely internal business case although the objective of both is not dissimilar.
As a buyer procuring a product or service, or obtaining costings for a tender submission, the default action is to find a provider and ask them for a quote. Whilst this is the end goal it shouldn’t be the first objective. It is paramount as a buyer that a business case is built for a number of reasons:
Ensuring synergy between the vendor’s solution and the customers problem
Anticipated return on investment
Selling internally for colleague buy-in
Building the foundations for a long term supplier-client relationship (More on this in my next blog in the New Year)
Transparency = synergy
It goes without saying that a supplier should always be honest and open about their capabilities, but likewise the buyer also needs to be forthcoming with background information to educate the supplier about their needs and challenges. Without transparency from both parties the supplier has no way of understanding the key business challenges, the buyer’s end goal and how they are going to help them get from A to B.
Every company, regardless of which shoes they are wearing, buyer or supplier, has stories of a product being mis-sold. The result? A waste of time and money for all involved. The buyer has likely gone through a lengthy procurement process wasting resources along the way. Similarly, so does the supplier, for all the heavy lifting that goes into finding an outbound sale, training sales people, salary, commission, customer support structure, the only outcome is a short term sale and an upset customer - the antithesis of the ideal SaaS business model where longevity of relationship and recurring revenues are key.
Whilst a mis-sale may be the working of an unscrupulous salesman, (in my opinion a dying breed due to greater accountability and an industry wide shift to recurring revenue models), it is more likely to be down to a lack of a customer-focused business case and resulted from a product/feature lead sales process. It is in both parties interest to be transparent to avoid mis-selling and ensure success in both the short term and long term.
Cost-benefit analysis & Anticipated return on investment
The key questions a salesperson should be asking when building a client-led business case are around quantifying the relevance, suitability and cost effectiveness of the proposed solution against the clients need. For example:
How have they done this in the past?
Why are the seeking to solve this problem now?
How long would it have previously taken you?
How much would this of cost?
Depending on the answers to these questions it will very quickly become apparent whether or not there is a round peg round hole.
Milton Keynes development
Take for example a recent sale I worked on at SenSat, selling to Berkeley Group who are scoping out a new Milton Keynes East development, which will result in the creation of 5000 new homes, 6500 new jobs, add £130 million in spending in Milton Keynes shops annually and gross levels of business rates (approximately £18m by 2031).
SenSat were asked to quickly and safely digitise the 1400 acre site, creating a high definition digital twin to “sell” the project as part of Berkeley’s planning permissions. Rather than simply firing out a stock quote, we took time with the client determining how long traditional methods would take, cost and what the pros and cons of both approaches were. We determined that terrestrial topographical survey collection would have taken approximately 6 months whereas SenSat collected all the data required in 2 days.
Getting under the bonnet of the client’s need meant that SenSat closed a deal, the client was happy and confident they had the best, repeatable and justifiable option.
“Selling” the business case internally for colleague buy-in
In the professional world no man or woman is an island. Increasing collaborative approaches mean purchasing decisions are rarely made by an individual but instead collectively. Getting buy-in to a new product or service from colleagues can be a challenge if there is no solid business case behind it. Without a business case all you have is a product and no matter how many bells or whistles it comes with if it doesn’t answer a problem or delivering demonstrable ROI you aren’t going to buy it. This is even more apparent when introducing new technology to laggard industries. Convincing the risk adverse to embrace new technology unless there is a proven case study and business case behind it i.e. saves me money, time and increases safety is always going to be a challenge.
Business case = long termism
The business case is the foundation and precursor to “customer success” - communication, support, response times, product delivery are all in vain if the foundations are unstable. Poor product-market fit is one of the top reasons for client churn and whilst a quick sell might be tempting to the vendor it is costly in terms of time and money to the vendor as well as the client. A business case sets the right tone and foundation to allow a long term relationship to flourish.
Two key processes to implement a “business case” first sales strategy
A rigid, structured and accountable pipeline review process. There should be a framework in place for qualifying sales opportunities with a number of boxes to tick prior to progressing the opportunity to the next stage, i.e. a business case can’t be sent out until we know XYZ
A business case template - making the document easy to edit and qualification questions to ask readily available ensures best practice sales behaviour organisations should encourage