How to Sell When Your Product is Not Budgeted Yet

How to Sell When Your Product is Not Budgeted Yet – Barry Cohen

  • 13 Jun 2016
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How to sell when your product is not budgeted yet there are significant problems you can solve and measureable business value you can deliver.

Barry Cohen

Let me set the context. Consider scenarios with some if not all of the following parameters.

1. Your prospect did not specifically budget and plan to solve the problem you can solve. They are not – yet – in a formal buying cycle.

2. Prospect has not bought your type of product and service before. You may be solving a problem in a new way that opens new revenue opportunities for your prospect. There is a disruptive element here.

3. Annual Contact Value of at least $100,000. Multiple influencers on the decision. Sales cycle can easily take 3-5 meetings over 2-3 months, at a minimum.

4. There’s a resistance to switching the approach to drive the business outcomes. (Let’s continue to do things the way we always have…the problem is not bad enough…). Resources and expertise to successfully implement, may be limited.

5. Time to value may be 1-3 quarters out. By the time the client goes through, planning, implementation and deployment, the positive impact may be several quarters down the road.

If you are at an early stage in discussion – perhaps the first call – definitely not an opportunity yet, you are likely there for one of three reasons.

1. You have been referred to a potential customer by one of your existing customers (the best source). Your existing customer believes you can help and has opened a door on your behalf based on their personal reputation.

2. Your potential customer has reached out on their own. They may be exploring approaches to open new revenue streams, solving problems, cutting costs, etc.

3. You have approached the company because this specific company aligns well with your criteria for your ideal customer. You have caught their attention with the kinds of problems you solve and the business value you deliver and they are intrigued to learn more.

4. If this scenario is most likely in your business, your sales team must be able to demonstrate a deep understanding of your prospect’s business and be able to show the prospect how – with your products and services – they can compete more effectively and drive growth.

Key steps to initiating and progressing through the sales cycle

Here are five key steps to build into your sales process and ensure success.

Establish your corporate credentials. Demonstrate your personal acumen. Build trust (extremely important in a value based, disruptive sale).

In the first call – in the first 20 minutes – you can elicit an overview of their challenges and goals, why they are open to a conversation now, share what sets you apart as a company, and show that you personally have the depth and breadth of business expertise to start down a road together.  One great element of that first call is a great story – one that resonates with your prospect. Ideally, you will have many stories and have a number of opportunities to tell RELEVANT stories in depth in the calls and meetings ahead. But sometimes, the best way to describe what you do, how well you do it and why it should matter to your prospect is through a story.

Now all of the above can easily take a lot more than 20 minutes, but in the first call, start a high level. Do it right and there will be ample opportunity to go deep. Here’s a link to a great YouTube video on Entrepreneurial Selling: The Story Matrix. Your prospect may only have the bandwidth to continue conversations with a few potential vendors / partners. You are earning the right to advance the dialogue and you are qualifying the prospect to ensure that continuing the conversation is a good use of your time.

Complete a deep dive into your prospects needs and show how you can solve the problems and drive value – better and different than everyone else.

If your prospect will spend hundreds of thousands or millions per year with your company, you need to deeply understand every dimension of the problem, from all the stakeholders across all the functional areas and this may extend through supply chains and sales channels to the customer. Identify and prioritize. Through your assessment you will demonstrate that you know their world and that you’ve been there before. Show them how you have successfully implemented solutions tailored to each client that have driven value for your customers – better and faster – than any alternative they may have considered.

You have the expertise at solving their problems in a way they never thought of, but should have.

Help your prospect understand that they are not simply buying a product or platform, they are buying your commitment to their success. What does that look like? It likely means that in addition to the platform, they are buying your organization’s expertise in the form of planning, implementation and potentially managed services to ensure they get the desired business outcomes. And because the solution is new to them, they need your services to ensure success.

Services are critical when you are disrupting markets and selling solutions that your customer has not bought before.

Work with your prospect to build the business case – don’t just offer an ROI calculator on your web site.  Develop a model that takes more than 2 or 3 inputs and talk it through with your prospect. Build the model together and you will achieve:

1. A far better understanding of how your prospect builds a business case. You will likely ending optimizing your own model.

2. A solid understanding of the real and most important measures that matter to your prospect. You can focus your proposal on moving those ‘needles’.

3. A superior and differentiated relationship with your prospect. You will have proven you understand their business and how you can impact it, better than the competition.

Help your client raise the priority inside their organization.

Generally, there’s a limit to the number of new initiatives a prospect can simply take on, in any given quarter. If they can focus on 5 initiatives and there’s consensus that you can deliver value, but you rank 7 on the priority ladder, you’re not moving forward. And there’s no guarantee that you will be in the actionable priorities in the next quarter.

So either you don’t understand the opportunity well enough or you have not effectively communicated the value you can deliver, or there simply is no significant opportunity (for now).  How do you get your project into the quarter? Go back to building the business case and presenting your vision for value creation.

Build an implementation plan together with your customer

Sure, you may be able to easily give them your standard implementation plan and tell your prospect you will tailor it after they sign the agreement. Plan the implementation together and include the customized plan in the proposal (you may be able charge for the plan). Once again, you further differentiate your brand, strengthen your relationship, and ultimately deliver a more compelling proposal. And, your prospect will only commit to the process if they see value in you – they will not do this with every contender.

For example, if you are selling an enterprise SaaS solution, how will you configure the SaaS application/platform? There is more than one way to implement any platform. What will you focus on? How fast can you get the platform live and how fast can you get to value? Tailor a roadmap that shows your customer how to show early wins/value fast and how to expand from there. Just as a lengthening sales cycle can mean lower the probability of a sale closing, a lengthy implementation can impact the decision to proceed.

Who can sell like this?

You need sales executives that can deeply understand your client’s businesses, not just your products. You need a sales team that can show a prospect a different approach that not only solves their current problem, but is sustainable and provides a competitive edge. For example, perhaps one of the outcomes of deploying a new technology to help open new markets or channels, is better analytics that provide the insights to enable smarter, faster decisions. And that leads to more growth.

What are your thoughts?

One more thought…

Geoffrey Moore wrote a great post entitled  Sales Disrupted! or Twelve Ways Digital is Disrupting Your Sales Cycle I encourage you to read his post for more insights.

About the Author

Barry Cohen’s expertise is all B2B – often in emerging, high growth companies (or divisions of larger enterprises) in sales and marketing leadership roles. My experience includes enterprise software (on premise and SaaS), managed services, corporate education and wireless – selling to diverse geographical and vertical markets. I’m currently looking for my next great opportunity to build a focused, scalable sales engine and accelerate sales growth.


Article originally published July 17, 2015

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