Losing winnable deals? Strike at the heart, not the head.

How to Close a Deal: Losing winnable deals: business man running across a finish line
Posted by Jack Keen in Expert Insights on Mar 9th, 2016 11:31 UTC

Are you struggling to create a compelling business case for your products or services? Trying to sell stakeholders on a new internal initiative? Do you struggle with how to close a deal?

In addition to communicating a clear, compelling value proposition, don’t forget about the soft benefits.

Hard benefits have monetary payoffs. Soft benefits — the so-called “intangibles” — can tip the scales to success if they tap into to your buyers’ heartfelt concerns.

Why are soft benefits so important?

  • They influence personal decisions. In 1921, psychiatrist Carl Jung asserted that decisions “have far more to do with the instincts and other mysterious unconscious factors than with… reasonableness.” That perspective has since been confirmed by hundreds of scientific studies.
  • They influence business decisions. They may be unspoken, but in my experience as a consultant, intangible factors comprise 30% to 50% of the evaluation for major investments.
  • They are a key part of corporate value. Intangible assets (similar to market image) now account for 84% of the total market value of S&P 500 firms in the US, according to Ocean Tomo. That’s up from 32% in 1985!

Here’s a real-life example. A decades old $1B services firm was losing market share to younger, nimbler competitors. A new HR platform offered tangible cost savings. But the 80-year-old, cost-cutting founder was still hesitating to invest. Then the head of HR had a eureka moment. He outlined the intangible value of restoring the firm to its legacy greatness by re-energizing its employees. By addressing the founder’s deep fear about losing his legacy, he quickly got approval for the investment.

So how do you get intangibles to work for you?

“Value” is extremely personal. Here are three ways to flesh out the intangibles your stakeholders hold dear:

  1. Put your search engine to work. Locate offbeat interviews (such as a hometown newspaper or college alumni event) that expose your buyer’s true feelings. Look also to your buyers’ bosses, as they set the culture and hence the firm’s behavior. Going after a deal with GE? Take a look at this New York Times article about CEO Jeff Immelt’s management style.
  2. Use LinkedIn to reveal emotional commitments. Look at the profiles of your buyers and the firm’s top execs. Check out what causes they care about and whom they cite as influencers… then link those clues to your value proposition.
  3. Check out other social media like Twitter and Facebook. If your target is into sports topics, maybe your appeal should relate to competitive winning, teamwork, or the quest for greatness.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.


Jack Keen

Jack Keen

Jack Keen is a globally recognized value realization/organizational change (VR/OCM) consultant with 25+ years experience on five continents advising C-level execs/teams. He’s a Founder of the Value Selling & Realization Council, a global knowledge community (vsrcouncil.org).

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