This was exclaimed in frustration by one of my clients recently. You see, they sell SaaS. What I commonly refer to as “Something as a Service”. That “Something” could be data storage, lawn maintenance, security or any myriad of things. In their case it was software. What so many sales reps forget is that the operative word here is Service. In short, before a customer is prepared to commit to an ongoing subscription model (either short, but especially long term), they need to believe you (the seller) are committed to providing the right service that will produce the outcomes they want to accomplish.

When I looked at my client’s proposal to that customer, I was not surprised that the customer didn’t understand the offering. I didn’t either – and I have a fairly decent handle on their business model. The proposal focused on the offering and the commercial terms and conditions, but nowhere did it reference or tie those back to the actual outcomes the customer was looking to achieve. This is the classic case of confusing the “drill and drill bits” for the “holes”. Too many sales reps forget that while customers are paying for the “drill and drill bits”, they are actually buying “holes”. I find this situation to be all too common especially in technology sales.

Technology companies typically train their sales reps to be proficient in describing in great (sometimes agonizing) detail the features of their offering (the drill and drill bits) and yet do not make them effective at understanding the outcomes (holes) the customer really wants. In this case, what had been omitted or forgotten during the selling motion was one of the most important steps in selling. And that is clearly connecting the dots between what is in your offering and the outcomes the customer is trying to achieve. When done effectively while selling and in the proposal, the customer understands exactly what they are paying for and how it will contribute to the outcomes they ultimately are buying.

This does something else that is critical for the selling organization, especially in a B2B situation, and that is to set up the right negotiation which is surely to follow. If you happen to be in front of procurement and they exclaim the costs are too high (they never tell you the costs are too low), you are now in a position to respond effectively. Any reduction in support or level of service or scope that you offer up as a trade to reduce costs, will now have a “knock on” effect on the outcomes. This is how you bring the actual business buyer back into the conversation during a negotiation. But that is a topic for another blog…

Remember, its fine to talk about the “drill and drill bits” but only after you understand the “holes” and can clearly relate how your offering is best aligned with and will better produce the outcomes the customer is looking to achieve.