With the launch of our latest whitepaper “Customer Value Management: Why Excel Can’t Cope,” DecisionLink spoke with some customers, prospects and advisors to capture their experience and opinion of using spreadsheets and homegrown solutions to manage their value-based selling and customer value management efforts.
We spoke with Trent Isaacs, RVP, Solutions Consulting and Value Engineering at Verint. In his role, Trent oversees the value selling program and a team of presales consultants. With nearly 30 years of experience managing and contributing to corporate value selling programs, Trent shares the 4 key issues that he’s uncovered as shortcomings to managing a value management practice with Excel and custom-built spreadsheets.
Reason #1 – Spreadsheets usually only shows one expression of value and do that poorly.
In our years of using Excel to put together any level of business case, what we found was that the authors really only ever presented time-to-payback models and called them “ROI” models. Very rarely did we ever express value in terms of NPV (Net Present Value), TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) or even proper ROI (Return on Investment). That lack of flexibility in expressing the numbers usually meant that the only person who consumed those numbers on the customer side was our sponsor. When it came time for them to make a decision, they would almost always have to go through the effort of creating their own models and trying to translate our data into them. I always suspected that bias would enter the equation and we would completely lose control of the work at that point.
That lack of flexibility in creation in Excel, coupled with all the issues that have been called out in the “CVM: Why Excel Can’t Cope”, around mathematical errors, variability in user skill, and the lack of easily created customer facing outputs robs you of critical credibility to the customer regarding your acumen in value selling.
Reason #2 – No visibility to what has been created means auditing the work is a nightmare.
It is worth calling out that in an environment where each seller is using their own Excel tools, you have no practical way to audit what has been done either by volume of work or, even worse, the details of what has been created.
It’s a pretty awful feeling when you are in final preparation for a presentation, or even in the presentation itself, and you are faced with an overly complex Excel table that has been stuck in a slide to try to express value and try to make sense of. In the end, the final products delivered were riddled with logical holes, weak expressions of value or outright math errors that were hard to correct or defend. That is way too much variability in deliverable quality to accept and expect to be successful.
Reason #3 – It is a vortex of time and effort
One of the biggest issues I had in our Excel days was simply trying to fit in the time and effort to build an Excel-based business case around all the other tasks associated with selling. Depending on complexity, it could take weeks of effort to pull a business case together. This slowed our momentum and felt like a chore from the customer perspective. The cultural impact of that was that sellers actively tried to avoid doing business cases! That left them in mire of selling on feature/functionality and price instead of value and outcomes, which we all know is not where we want to be.
Reason #4 – It made us dumber about value
If the only definition of value selling is “did we do an ROI model in Excel?”, then you are lost and might not even know it. Excel became a crutch for us to use when we wanted to SAY that we had focused on business value when all we had really done was model potential benefits. Excel-based models are a task, not a method. After years of working in that way, I believe it took us backwards in our understanding of how to talk about value from the very first steps with a prospect. The best way I can say it is that the way we used Excel models was designed to facilitate our selling process when what we were looking for was a way to facilitate the customers’ buying process. They weren’t looking for clever math in a static spreadsheet, what they needed from us was a clearer message of how buying from us would bring value to them personally and to their organization broadly. That’s a very different way of selling.
Selling customer value is not only important, it’s essential! If you can’t show how you can deliver value better than your competition can, you’ll find yourself in a price and feature battle and in defense-mode trying to justify your price. Download our whitepaper to see why it’s time to use a cloud-based, enterprise-class solution instead of spreadsheets, and let us know if we can help you to explore ways to help your organization manage, automate and scale customer value management.