Predicting ROI

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Do you send your salespeople into meetings armed only with spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations? What if your reps could sit down with their prospects, ask them about their business problems and show them a financial analysis on their laptop right there that clearly communicates the value proposition? Then they could leave their prospects with a printout of the report, which the prospects could then take to sell their boss on your product.

Communicating value to prospects has always been a challenge for high-tech sales organizations, and it's always been a requirement. When technical knowledge, financial analysis and actual application information is kept in marketing and research departments, field reps are often left to fend for themselves, using anecdotes, spreadsheets or the occasional success story to show the prospect that a $500,000 investment will--someday--pay for itself.

Silent Partner Software develops custom-designed interactive sales tools that can help your salespeople clearly communicate product value and justify their price points to their prospects. The company can create both Web-based and desktop tools to help your sales organization educate and close their prospects. By taking financial models and transforming them into a logically flowing, graphics-driven, dynamic educational software application, the company helps translate your prospect's business information into a compelling argument to buy your product. "We take return-on-investment financial analysis and we turn it into a sales tool," Says Jeff Hill, executive vice president of Silent Partner Software. "The fact that you are walking your prospect through the value proposition gives you an opportunity to tell your sales story in a unique way."

Translating Tool
The sales tools are created by incorporating business information, including ad hoc collections of data, calculations and spreadsheets, as well as industry reports and analyses into a dynamic Web-site or laptop presentation. "Instead of walking into a sales meeting with a PowerPoint presentation where the communication is really in one direction, our tool is interactive," Hill says. A salesperson could sit down with his prospect and create a dynamic dialog using the tool. For example, he could ask his prospect how many people work for him, and the prospect could answer, "We have 400 people working for us." The rep would enter that information into the tool and could then ask, "What kind of servers are you using?" The prospect could respond "NT," and the rep would enter that information into the tool. Continuing the conversation, the rep could then ask, "How often does your system go down with a virus?" His prospect could tell him, "It goes down twice a month." Next, the rep could ask his prospect, "What does it cost you when a virus attack hits?" Now the prospect might say he really doesn't know. Here the rep could say, "You know what? The GartnerGroup says on average when a virus attack hits, the costs are [X]. Let me show you what it would cost you." Then, with a mouse click, the rep could have the tool calculate the costs, and show that the price of his product would cover those monthly attacks in half a year. Finally, the rep could print out a four-color report to leave with the prospect as a customized, concrete ROI argument. "Now the prospect doesn't see the salesperson as a huckster, but as a consultant," Hill says.

Taking a client's existing materials such as case studies, anecdotes, slide show presentations and white papers, Silent Partner will translate the verbal benefit descriptions into mathematical formulae, identify areas of quantitative benefit, add research justification and references for major assumptions, and provide a polished interactive sales presentation tool to communicate the value proposition.

From the client's existing financial spreadsheets or worksheets, Silent Partner will identify the appropriate moment within the sales cycle to use the financial analysis tool and tailor its construction based on that intended use. It will optimize model inputs for sales meetings and discussions, and establish a logical model flow to help maximize prospects' understanding of the value proposition.

The ROI tool can be used to educate prospects, justify prices, generate dialog, enhance your corporate image and to improve sales training effectiveness.

Self-Service Tool
Rick Opton, director of partnerships at Boca Raton, Fla.-based HostLogic, uses the Silent Partner product as a Web-based self-service tool. The ERP application service provider company projects revenue for this year to be under $10 million, and next year's at $40 million. The company is growing so fast that it intends to double or triple its staff in the next 18 months.

"What we offer is a solution that essentially saves our customers a lot time in having to implement a large enterprise resource planning application. What we find is that although the selling points are very obvious--because we host the application, it's not necessary for our customers to go out and buy hardware. Because we host the application, our customers don't need to go out and hire database administrators. All that is a very good selling proposition and customers generally understand. But when you put the rubber to the road, they want to see some numbers, they want to understand what it is really going to cost them, what is their total cost of ownership to actually implement a system in-house--everything. If you have a company host that application, is there really a return on investment? Am I really going to save money, does it make sense to do it? That question started coming up frequently--surprisingly, through our partner channels. Essentially, the way we go to market is through channels of partners who help bring our solution to the marketplace. Partnerships are very strategic with us. The folks that are out there promoting our solution and talking about application hosting and why it makes sense--they're in front of their prospects who are saying, 'OK, well sure, but what's my total cost of ownership if I do it in-house compared to having someone host it? Am I really going to save money? Give me a reason why it makes sense.'

"So we were on the phone and explaining this and sending them materials, but I essentially wanted to come up with a self-service tool, something that we could put up on our Web site that either an end-prospect or someone from our channel could go into," Opton says. Silent Partner created a program for HostLogic for its Web site. People would come to the Web site and be asked if they wanted a comparison of costs, and if so, they then would be asked to input some business and identification information. It would be protected by a user-I.D. password and through a fairly simple process of data input--certain facts such as number of employees, revenue size, the kind of system that they need, would be entered and the ROI calculated. This would also serve as a lead capture for new prospects just coming to the site. The channel partners, the salespeople and prospects on their own could use the tool. "The tool will actually produce a beautiful report at the end that will show them the cost justification and the differences between option A and option B," Opton says.

The tool is scheduled to launch this summer. "What we've seen in prototypes and what they've already started developing for us looks pretty good," says Opton. "We think it's going to be a nice tool to have. Certainly the people in our channel have been asking for it. It will provide value to our channel and separate us from our competitors."

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