Friday, August 18, 2017

Show Me How

Dan Corcoran, Chief Technology Officer & VP Sales Enablement, Mainstay

“I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

Popular reckoning credits this quote by Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver with coining Missouri’s unofficial motto as the “Show Me State.” The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet, is famous for insisting that he’ll only invest in what he can understand. Maybe it’s a Midwestern thing, but as a former Ohioan, I find the most important part of deciding Why? is understand the implied HOW?

Process improvement ABC saves 77% in labor costs over five years!

Solution XYZ reduces infrastructure spending by 48%!

Save $500,000 a year in power with smart building solution N!

These are the kinds of statements that companies write entire value messaging campaigns around. At first glance they appear quantitative because, you know, numbers=smart. But try to unpack them and the logic unravels fast. Why 77% and not 42%? What factors led to this savings or improvement? What factors enable or endanger similar results in my business?

Let’s assume for a moment that all of those “quantitative” value statements are well researched, supported by large data sets and adjusted for you as the specific audience. It. Doesn’t. Matter. It doesn’t matter and they are no more true if the consumer of this information can’t understand the HOW that underlies these justifications. And that’s because they are not justifications, they are outcomes. And outcomes are meaningless unless you understand HOW to replicate them.

This is why quantitative modeling is at the heart of every Mainstay asset. Whether we’re writing a whitepaper, collecting data for case studies or infographics, or building justification tools for sellers, we always start with a model. Modeling is a great way to really explore your value proposition and its something anyone with the most basic Excel skills can do effectively. Basic arithmetic is usually all you need to calculate just about any kind of business benefit. Modeling can also be a great way to address the BS factor that can sometimes scuttle the best intentioned value messaging efforts. If it won’t float, you’d rather know now than have your customer challenge you on it later. 

Models don’t have to be fancy, they don’t have to look pretty. The point is to identify and demonstrate cause and effect. Start simple and add complexity as it becomes necessary (and if it doesn’t, don’t). No matter what you’re selling, using quantitative modeling as a starting point for crafting your value proposition just makes sense. In fact, this model often becomes the genesis for multiple important assets, because no matter what result you get, it’s important to understand how got there. And remember, show your work! Because if you can’t explain it, Warren ain’t buyin’.