Why sales forces armed with ROI tools still fail

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Many technology companies, especially those that offer complex or expensive solutions, have developed Return on Investment (ROI) tools for their sales organizations. The goal is to provide prospects a factual, economic basis for making a purchase decision. Unfortunately, very few companies are making a real impact with this important approach to selling. Why do these efforts fail? There are several reasons:

The companies have a "develop and ignore" philosophy. The tools are not developed, tested and modified to ensure successful use by the sales force. Rarely will you find an internal owner of these tools who treats them like a product, with an ongoing analysis of the sales force's needs. The tools either get a poor reputation or they atrophy from lack of visibility and support.

The tools are too difficult to use, or explain to, sales reps and prospects. The concept of economic justification can be challenging to begin with.

The tools or their output have no credibility with prospects. It's difficult enough to overcome the suspicion of a tool presented by a vendor (whether developed by a third party or not); if the presentation of the tool isn't made with a high level of confidence and with believable data, it loses even more credibility. Confidence comes when the sales rep has a clear understanding of the tool itself. "Believability" comes from helping the prospect understand the value of the approach, and through the application of the prospect's own data to the tool.

The tools are treated as just another piece of sales collateral-like yet another data sheet-and not as a completely different approach to selling. Not only are salespeople not trained in using the tools, they are not trained in how to sell based on economic justification.

Given these pitfalls, companies can make ROI work for them by following these simple steps:

  • Assign an owner to the tools and the process;
  • Evaluate what's working now and conduct an unbiased gap analysis;
  • Build the right model;
  • Make it easy to deploy;
  • Build an elegant-looking result;
  • Spend time with the prospect;
  • Train, test, modify, train ...

Glenn Gow is managing partner of Crimson Consulting Group. He can be reached at

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