Ray Collis

Salespeople Grapple With The Business Case

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Would you be surprised to know that many large organizations require a business case for purchases of as little as €20,000? As one UK veteran salesperson told us recently, ‘I have seen more business cases in the past year than I have in the previous 19 years.’ There is more strategic business logic being applied to buying decisions than ever before.

The Role of the Business Case

The New Battleground For Sellers

The business case is the new battleground for buyer and seller alike:

  • When purchases get stalled or scrapped it is because the business case is not strong enough.
  • When a seller loses a sale it is because their proposal fails to demonstrate how their company is essential to the buyer’s business case.
  • When projects struggle and fail to deliver the expected results, it is because of problems in the transition from business case to business reality.

Buyers tell us that the business case is more important than the skill of the salesperson, the reputation of the supplier, the quality of the sales proposal, the sophistication of the technology or just about anything else. After all unless there is a compelling business case the purchase will not proceed.

Major buying decisions must be underpinned by indisputable business logic, communicated in the international language of numbers. Planning and analysis have supplanted impulse, discretion and emotion. This has been driven by the requirements of the business case.

Buyers must calculate the costs, benefits and risks equation of their project often to a level of sophistication that would impress a university professor. Their proposal will then live or die based on its business case.

Salespeople Grapple With The Business Case

Despite its importance, most salespeople struggle with the business case. First, there is confusion about what the business case is and what it should contain. Then there is anxiety about how the seller can get to see the business case, not to mention how they can actually influence it. These factors have greatly diminished the influence the salesperson has on how buying decisions are made.

The fundamental importance of business logic or the business case is the iron law of buying. We call it a law because it is fixed and immutable. Its existence does not depend on the seller understanding the need for a business case, or what it should contain. It does not depend on the seller seeing the business case, or even influencing it. The business case is at the center of big buying, whether the salesperson likes it or not.

There are many implications for the seller, including:

  • Vendors must ask how they can impact on the performance and further the strategic goals of the buyer’s business. They must see the bigger picture — that is the sale in its wider project or strategy context.
  • Vendors must understand all of the buyer’s options and alternatives, including competing projects, the option of doing it in-house or even delaying a decision.
  • Instead of writing sales proposals, vendors must help buyers to build the business case.
  • Replace the terms competitive advantage, features and benefits with the language of the business case.
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