Why & How to Use ROI in Your B2B Go-to-Market Strategy

Kelly Ford Buckley . January 5, 2015

Here at Edison, Joe Allegra and I have periodically debated whether ROI matters in a sales process. Joe cites the all-too-common cases where the ROI model simply checks a tactical box late in the sales cycle. It's one of the items on Procurement's list before a contract can be signed. As such, Joe discounts the purpose and value of this use of ROI in the selling process. 

Another ineffective use of the ROI tool is when a salesperson uses it as a last-ditch attempt to convince the prospect of the impact of the solution. This is one of the reasons sales and marketing experts at Sales Benchmark Index suggest killing the ROI calculator.

I agree with Joe and SBI. Part of the challenge is with the terminology. When Joe and others refer to ROI, they are often thinking about cost savings more than topline or business benefits. And cost-savings discussions are generally bottom-of-the-funnel issues rather than top-of-the-funnel sales drivers. Let’s talk about incorporating a business case (in place of ROI) as you make your value proposition.

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More weight can be given to the ROI model when it serves as a lever in making a true business case for your solution, and when that business case is a core part of your value proposition and has a life throughout Marketing, Sales and even Delivery and Account Management initiatives.

There are three key scenarios that call for incorporating a business case into a company's value proposition:

1. You are (or have the opportunity to be) the premium player in highly competitive market. The market is likely a well-defined, established one where you are competing on price. Your solution may be positioned as more advanced/sophisticated. Perhaps you are more innovative, too, with differentiated domain expertise. And maybe you also offer an unmatched level of intimacy in your customer service approach. Unfortunately, none of this is enough because being good enough is often enough in an established market.
 
Adopting a focus on value in your messaging is key, as this is the primary method of setting, or changing, criteria in a competitive selling process. And, of course, your technology, domain expertise, service levels, etc. need to be there, too, to back it up.  
 
2. You're an innovation player, creating and leading a new category. When creating a new category, the fact that you are an innovator appeals to early adopters, but a more tangible value proposition focused on business outcomes can be what's needed to capture market share. New entrants will eventually ride your coat tails. If you can prove meaningful contribution to the business, you will set the tone (the criteria) and make it difficult for them to compete.
 
3. You're not much of a player at all because your solution's primary competition is "do nothing." This means you're losing opportunities to inaction, or to other unrelated/peripheral projects that have the customer organization's attention. Unless you can attach your solution to a meaningful and quantifiable business problem and prove out a measurable impact on that problem, "do nothing" unfortunately, wins.
 

The above three scenarios help frame why/when using a business case can not only lend credibility, but also drive sales effectiveness. Now, let's now review the how -- some example methods for evolving this from a message and a tool into an end-to-end go-to-market discipline.

Marketing

Emphasize quantifiable business outcomes on your website and in sales tools, reinforced by customer stories. Highlight compelling business problems (aligned with strategic imperatives) that only you solve. From a Product Marketing perspective, prioritize and promote features and service capabilities that contribute to and strengthen the business case, and ensure tracking and measurement of key business metrics.

Sales

Give the business case discussion a life throughout the sales process, as illustrated in the below example. Discover business drivers and address early and often.

ROI_SalesProcess

Delivery

Create transparency with your services team(s) so that they, too, have an awareness of the customer's business drivers and hence, understand that their work is key to meeting the customer's business goals. While Delivery team(s) may not be in a position to affect the actual business outcome, they certainly can affect the time it takes for the customer to realize expected business outcomes.

Account Management

Institute a performance management discipline with your Account Management (Customer Success) team, in the interest of customer retention and growth. Once a customer is live with your solution, use the very same business case validated during the selling process as the basis for managing and optimizing customer deployments. Ensure account managers are equipped with all of the right performance metrics (per Product Marketing prioritization point above) and best practices, and establish a cadence - whether monthly or quarterly - to proactive engage customers to review the "scorecard" and methods for optimization based on those best practices. And, of course, the result of this Account Management discipline feeds back to the Marketing team so it can continue to build up a portfolio of quantifiable customer success stories.

The new year's Sales Kick-off is a great opportunity to revisit selling processes and go-to-market disciplines, and introduce refinements. Why and how will you make and deliver on the business case for your solution this year?

 

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