Value-Based Selling: The Keys to a Successful ROI Discussion

Value-based selling


Value-Based Selling: The Keys to a Successful ROI Discussion

If learning how to sell in the “next normal” isn’t difficult enough, there’s a new face at buying conversations these days that’s causing sellers to tear up the playbook and rewrite the conversation.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses most impacted by the shutdown are tightening their belts and watching every penny. That means, as a vendor, there’s a new sheriff in town – the chief financial officer (CFO), or another delegate of the corporate finance team. 

As we have seen in other economic downturns, the finance team is taking a more prominent role in buying conversations – in fact, participation in sales calls by CFOs is up 91 percent over pre-pandemic levels, according to an analysis of sales calls by This has been prompted, of course, by an increasingly cautious atmosphere around spending.

For sales professionals, the “old tried and true” methods are no longer adequate, and those automatic annual renewals or reorders from your most steadfast accounts are no longer a sure thing. This landscape has given rise to the importance of a detailed ROI discussion around the products and services that you offer.

As a sales executive, you need to understand this right now: Can my sales pros have a finance conversation? Can they communicate the return on investment of your products and services? Can what you offer enhance buyers’ efficiency and total cost of ownership? Can your offering help mitigate their risk?

Attaining the ability to have a more high-level financial conversation is critically important right now. But, with keen preparation and insight, you’ll be ready to talk turkey.

In our conversations with sales executives, and in our own experiences, here are the keys to having a value-based conversation with your buyer:

Know the Audience:  Certainly, try to find out in advance if a representative of the finance department will be a part of the presentation. Unlike your usual buyer, this person will likely have different motivations as they consider your offering. If you are able to make some quick assumptions based upon their role within the organization, you can get a handle on their wants, needs, and motivations around the purchasing decision. Use these assumptions to create a few focused questions that you can ask to get to the heart of their perspective.

Know the Big Picture: Even though the CFO or their designee will be part of the discussion, it is likely that there is more motivating their decision than just price. We once worked with a sales representative who was targeting a buyer of aftermarket parts for the industrial trucking industry. In the course of understanding their use case for the products, the sales rep spoke to technicians and other people in manufacturing. Over the course of his research, he learned that the current incumbent for brake parts was indeed delivering a less expensive product, but it was also prone to premature wear and failure. 

The sales representative used this reconnaissance to illustrate to the CFO how his product, though more expensive, could improve overall efficiency while reducing the need for costly labor to repair premature failures. By demonstrating the total cost of ownership of the product, the sales rep’s case resonated well with the CFO – and the deal was struck.

Know the Pain: Current market conditions have caused a variety of challenges for most organizations. The CFO at most of these companies is likely being asked to plug leaks in the boat as soon as they appear. Aside from strained budgets and slow sales, many companies are dealing with supply chain interruptions due to COVID, and management is concerned that they will get orders that they can’t fulfill. Any assurances you can provide that your offering can help keep their business pointed forward, productive, and efficient, will be useful in getting past the price conversation. 

Enlist Your Advocate: Your existing contact likely is still a strong ally. Leverage this advocate by asking them if they can provide some enlightenment on what is most important to the CFO. What are his or her big concerns are going to be? What are their most important priorities in terms of this purchase?

With CFOs increasingly involved in the sales cycle, how can you be best prepared for a successful value discussion? If we at The Brooks Group can be of any assistance to you, please give us a call. For more than 40 years, we have helped sales professionals understand how to uncover what clients and prospects truly value. We have a full slate of offerings to help you upskill your team and get them on track, including a host of virtual, instructor-led training (VILT) offerings.


Michelle Richardson

Michelle Richardson is the Vice President of Sales Performance Research. In her role, she is responsible for spearheading industry research initiatives, overseeing consulting and diagnostic services, and facilitating ROI measurement processes with partnering organizations. Michelle brings over 25 years of experience in sales and sales effectiveness functions through previously held roles in curriculum design, training implementation, and product development to the Sales Performance Research Center.

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