Selling Your Economic Value Proposition to the C Suite: Translating Technology to the Language of Business
The challenge of building a Business Case for CAPEX investments with high intangible content, i.e., IoT, professional services and operational excellence, remains a challenge. Many also argue that disruptive new business models are making the old ways irrelevant.
Hence, we simply must make the investment to remain competitive. After all, everyone is doing it. A matter of faith! The returns are huge (just look at this white paper).
To some extent technological based business model disruption has always been true, certainly throughout the industrial and cyber revolutions of the last 200 years or so. However, one of the major issues with technological change is the nature of the cultural differences between the technologists and those who write the checks.
We have previously described organizational culture as partly a function of an Interdisciplinary Common Vocabulary (ICV). One can look at the gap between advocates of new technologies and/or business models and the “C” suite as the lack of shared ICV. This gap may become egregious during economic downturns when financial concerns overtake strategy.
Making Your Case
As a junior sales representative and later ‘pitching’ CAPEX projects to management, I often presented the ‘Feature—Benefit’ of my suite of products and services. My success rate was on par with my peers, but the case could be made that I was no better than average. We all had weak value propositions.
While I did not know it at the time, my sales ‘ah ha’ moment happened when the department of head for an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPIC) firm with a refinery rebuild project asked me if he would get promoted if he bought from me. Dah, what did that have to do with anything I wondered. I have great features and benefits.
At least as good as my multiple competitors. Moreover, I could lower my price and give him great value.
Once we understood his CSFs, we won a multimillion dollar (high margin) deal. His problem was not the technology. All competitive specs and price points were tightly grouped. Almost any reputable vendor would do.
His key problem were project milestones! He did not want a pile of products to be assembled. He need solutions to meet deadlines and we could deliver against that critical path. That was the value proposition he needed. By the way, he got promoted!
I have seen this phenomenon often, including earlier this month. Sales people and internal proponents of new ideas often focus on the new hot stuff, for which many competitors vie. The current crazes include IoT, Blockchain, Operational Excellence to name a few.
How many suppliers of these technologies and methods are there and how are they differentiated? Lots and poorly would be my bet and experience.
C Suite Value
The stereotypical ‘hard nose’ businessman or businesswoman is alive and well. He and she live in the C suite and boardroom. Preaching features and benefits, PPT bullet points of value or use case with glossary, poorly articulated and often unbelievable claims will make for a short meeting.
Proponents of big, disruptive or simply expensive ideas can have their ‘ah ha’ moment too. Who is the audience and what are their drivers that can you facilitate? In a previous blog this author took umbrage with sales cold calls who wanted to meet, waste my time and “learn about my company.”
In other words what I hear is, I don’t have time to do my homework before I meet the economic buyer. Another deal closing strategy! Not.
In an invited Guest Editorial for the Professional Petroleum Data Management Association (PPDM) online magazine, Foundations we had the privilege to post a short article. In How to Make The Case To the C-Suite: Selling Large Scale Data Management Project to the C Suite, we present a short overview of this process. The magazine (Vol 5, Issue 2) is free; all one has to do is sign up as a Guest.
The article tells the story of a hypothetical Chief Data Scientist as she prepares for a presentation to the Chief Financial Officer. Readers will see that for some concerns management has, she has a lot of homework and preparation to do. One would expect that much of this work is outside her comfort zone, but necessary.
In our hypothetical case, she has the prep work in addition to her so-called ‘day job,’ a problem most have. Additionally, she must align with their ICV and move away from ‘data speak.’
Since 2004, we have used our Economic Value Proposition Matrix ® (EVPM) to help guide this process for a wide range of large projects (including security). A free version is available. Your invited to check it out and contact us if you have any questions.
When the economic cycle is at a low point, it is hard to sell new projects. When the cycle is active, there are competing projects. Throwing money at technology has failed time and time again and ruined many careers (the antithetical of ‘getting promoted’). Building a solid business case in the ICV of senior executives is a step towards accelerating one’s career, closing a deal or enjoying a project rather than fighting every step.
One final point, when one reads statements such as, “Our software will save you 50%” they are not true on their face and management never believes them. So never make those claims no matter the authority of their source. Sometimes the value can be greater. To find out the secret look at our webpage for the answer.
Good Selling to the Top Dogs!
The author and others have published extensively on this subject. The list of appropriate articles and papers is too extensive to list here. However, readers are invited to peruse Dr. Shemwell’s extensive list of blogs and publications.
Critical Mass: Value from the RBC Framework
Nuclear physicists define the term, “critical mass” as the amount of fissile material whereby a nuclear reaction is self-sustaining. From that original definition, the construct is further developed along societal and political terms as a function of the environment and number of adopters and their interdependencies that create enough of a consensus for individual actions that sustains an undertaking.
In 1996, the author published the first of several case studies on a societal interaction model based on the Relationships, Behavior and Conditions (RBC) construct among economic actors. Previously the model was only in the domain of academia.
This blog addresses contemporary issues from the RBC perspective and whether in the present state they are sustainable or not. Many readers may be familiar with the “Innovation Adoption Curve.” RBC seeks to enlighten the causality of behaviors that cause movement towards the critical mass that generates movement along this diffusion curve.
- Operational Complexity: Risk Model Insufficiency March 8, 2019
- Decision Making in the Digitalization Age: Who Decides? March 5, 2019
- Fleeting Success: In Pursuit of Sustainability February 14, 2019
- Three Years—Ten Months: How did they do it? February 4, 2019
- Beat the Market: Can Operational Excellence Increase EPS? January 30, 2019
Other Blogs Dr. Shemwell Authors
Dr. Shemwell is an author for the following 3rd party blogs.
Governing Energy Blog
BTOES Insights is the content portal for Business Transformation & Operational Excellence opinions, reports & news. Dr. Shemwell is a contributor.
Consult 2050 connects organizations with a wide range of consultants all around the world. The firm operates an online marketplace for consultancy services.
About the Author
Dr. Scott M. Shemwell has over 30 years technical and executive management experience primarily in the energy sector. He is the author of six books and has written extensively about the field of operations. Shemwell is the Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute, a firm that focuses on providing its customers with solutions enabling Operational Excellence and regulatory compliance management. He has studied cultural interactions for more than 30 years—his dissertation; Cross Cultural Negotiations Between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis (Exploratory Study) is an early peer reviewed manuscript addressing the systemic structure of societal relationships.