Working in a sales environment gives me a lot of opportunity to repurpose my previous education in business management. I had an entire class on the concept of return on investment. This concept showed up periodically in other classes, but it was an important enough topic that we covered it in-depth for a whole semester.
The class was filled with case studies and traditional management theory, but it missed the mark a bit when it comes to working in the real world. Whether we're building a product or selling one, there's a hypothesis that the cost of acquiring the product for the customer is less than the benefit of adopting it. Well, I'd hope so...otherwise why are we in business?
The problem with looking at ROI through this lens is that we're framing it around our specific solution. Why is that a problem? Because we're assuming the customer has already done the right calculation on the magnitude of the problem our solution solves.
What if they haven't? There's a certain amount of education involved that many suppliers/vendors don't get right. We aim to educate on the value of OUR solution, but if the customer hasn't decided they need to solve the big problem, then the ROI of adopting our solution doesn't make sense.
Instead, we need to spend time understanding the problem and deriving an ROI for solving it. Notice I didn't say, "...for solving it using our solution." That part comes later. First, we have to make sure the customer understands the size of their problem, the reward for solving it, and how their status quo is causing pain. Once we do those three things, then we can point the arrows back to our solution as the only one uniquely qualified to solve their problem.