Why "ROI" messaging in your B2B Sales & Marketing doesn't work


If you’re selling complex or high-value B2B products or services, you’ve probably used Return on Investment (ROI) calculations to justify your value proposition and proposal. You may well market your offerings on the basis of the improved ROI you believe your target customers can generate.

But even when presenting to your prospects with a compelling ROI-based argument the chances are that you still won’t win the deal - and it’s not just because (even though it’s undoubtedly true) many buyers don’t trust the ROI calculations that vendors come up with.

Overcoming the risk of change

Until your prospect has concluded for themselves that the costs, risks and consequences of doing nothing is higher than the costs and risk of change, they will simply stick with the status quo - and ROI won’t even come into their thinking.

It’s a case of “better the devil they know”. Prospects know, from bitter experience, that change is risky, it's unpredictable and seemingly unmanageable. So unless they feel they have to change, and unless there is a consensus for change across the stakeholders in the organisation, they probably just won’t.

It’s no wonder that prospects are increasingly (and frustratingly) deciding to do nothing after involving you in a lengthy sales process. In fact, overcoming the status quo is often your most powerful competitor more so than your traditional competition.

Marketing and selling against the status quo

Sooner or later, if your proposal involves significant investment, and even if it has the support of the apparent decision making group, someone in authority is going to say “tell me again why we’re planning to spend money on this?”

If the case for change is not absolutely compelling, the chances are that the project will be dead in the water - regardless of the wonderful ROI calculation you completed for the primary sponsor.

Because at that point, you’re not just fighting the competition. You’re fighting against everything else the prospect could do with that money, including keeping it in the bank. Your project could be competing for attention with buying new office furniture, or even the banks’ current (measly) rate of deposit interest.

How to make the case for change

When you first uncover an apparently compelling need, and before you succumb to the temptation to pitch your solution, you have to help your prospect recognise the costs, risks and consequences of inaction. If you can’t help them develop a compelling case for change, you must be very cautious about throwing sales resources at the project. And your sales team most certainly shouldn’t be forecasting it.

When planning your content marketing, understand that overcoming the Cost of Inaction (COI) is a distinct phase your buyer must go through before you get to address the ROI of your solution. Make it a stage in your buying journey map. When designing your content sequence, which is the narrative for your buyer, ensure you have specifically designed content that helps your buyer think through and calculate their COI.

In a sales situation when uncovering an apparent need, ask about the problem from the buyer's perspective. Help them think though the ramifications. Here are some of the questions:

  • How long have you recognised the problem? What’s prevented you from dealing with it in the past? Why is now the right time to deal with it?
  • Who else is affected by the problem? What’s the impact on them, and on their organisation?
  • What would happen if the problem wasn’t dealt with? What impact would a delay in dealing with it have on your department - or the company as a whole?
  • Who would have to approve the project? What has been their attitude to similar change programmes in the recent past?
  • Does the company have an appetite for this sort of change? How would this project fit into the company’s key initiatives for the current year?

Your potential champion may not have all the answers but you may cause them to think about the problem from an entirely different perspective. You’ll never have a better chance to secure their agreement to help you make connections with other key stakeholders in the organisation. Don’t waste it by jumping straight into your product pitch - it’s way too early for that.

It’s not just about money

And it’s not just about the money...What about the impact on employees, on morale, or on customer satisfaction? What about the risk that one of their competitors may steal an advantage if your prospect decides to do nothing, or to delay? What will happen to the job or career prospects of your sponsor or the other stakeholders? Build a case for change on emotional as well as rational value.

Your case for change needs to combine cost, risk and consequences in a compelling way. You’ll build a much better case for your solution if you take the initiative. And when that time comes for someone in authority to ask the dreaded question “tell me again why we’re planning to spend money on this?” the justification will be irrefutable - and your solution irresistible.

If you're interested in discussing this idea or other concepts to improve your company's sales and marketing success and thus your growth prospects, just hit the link below.


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Topics: content marketing strategy b2b sales