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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  January 06, 2015

How to Communicate Your ROI in Sales Conversations

Originally published by RainToday.com

Talking about return on investment (ROI) is one of the biggest balancing acts in sales conversations.  Buyers want proof that you are for real, but then they disregard or dispute the proof you provide.  Maddening isn’t it?  Here are three steps to discuss ROI without sounding like you are lying or desperate.

Step 1:  Define

ROI is a very general term that has a wide variety of definitions. So, you know by now to ask about the buyers’ definition of success. What many of us learn is that buyers have a general idea of the problem, but often they don’t have a clear picture.

Your goal:  Help the buyer gain clarity around their vision. We all have our reasons to believe our work is worth it. If you push those reasons too early, though, buyers won’t believe the data. Instead, focus on whether you’re the best fit.

Your best option: Most of us know to explore what success looks like with the prospect. But don’t stop there. Go further by exploring the specific help required to reach that goal. When buyers are clear about the help they need, you can better identify your fit.

Example: I get a lot of calls from authors ready to promote their book. One of my first questions is “What kind of help do you need?” If the buyer is looking for a publicist, I explain the difference between positioning and pitching the media and offer to recommend the latter. Half the time, the authors quickly discover they do need positioning help after all.

Step 2:  Prove It

After you define what ROI looks like for the buyer and that you are a good fit, this second step  is obvious. You need to prove that your solutions are worth far more than the investment. This is a tricky balance between facts and emotions.

Proving your worth has two sides.

First, buyers need clarity around your role. What will happen as a result of your involvement? Facts work great here.

The second side is much more subjective. Buyers want to know about the experience of working with you. Their big questions: Are you going to take advantage of my ignorance to benefit yourself or do you have my best interests at heart? Are you going to create havoc, then walk away?

Your goal:  Buyers need to convince themselves that your solution can help them. Your job is to give them the information to help them decide.

Your best option: Many of us tell stories of other clients. That’s a good first step, but let’s go a little further. Show the prospect how your client is similar to them. If you show the similarities in the situation, you dispel their fear that they are a guinea pig. Another idea is to go to the dark side. Talk about the time something didn’t work out and what you did to fix it. Show that you will be there for the bad times.

Example: A prospect talked to me on the phone, and we hit it off. Then she talked to one of my clients who gave her specific examples of the impact of my market strategy and how I stepped in to help when I didn’t have to. That conversation validated her instincts. She got clear on what I could do. And I got a new client.

Step 3:  Walk Away

This is the part where things can get a little crazy. Buyers have done their due diligence but still won’t make a decision. The real reasons why are many and varied. Many times, folks may be convinced of your value but unsure if they really want to start the journey. If you address the real concern without “selling,” you can help the client make a big decision. If you go back and provide the same proof, you look desperate.

Your goal: You want the buyer to make an informed decision. Only the buyer can decide if the value is worth it. If you’ve done the previous two steps well, you’ve played your role. The rest is up to them.

Your best option: Walk away, but leave the door open. There are two ways to do this: if you want to play it cool, leave with “Well, the ball is in your court. Let me know if I can help.” Or, if you think the project is time-sensitive, leave the door open with a deadline with something like “Look, it sounds like you are really ready to do XX but need some time.  What’s our next step?”  After all of the time spent, it’s OK to ask for a decision one way or another.

Example: A prospect once told me, “Well, if I knew I would make $50,000 a month on this, this would be a no-brainer.” My response: “Yes, and if getting $50,000 was cheap and easy, too, everyone would do it.”  We laughed, and I left on good terms. He knows the door is open when he’s ready, and I’m not holding my breath.

Selling Without Selling

Buyers have a perception about sales conversations. They take the information with a grain of salt. At best, they trust but verify. If we give information without being attached to their decision, we walk that fine line that shows our value without coming off as desperate for the sale. We become a good resource. Even if we don’t get the client now, we’ve extended our network. No matter what, we win.

 

Filed Under: Sales


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.