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Back to the Usage Scenario

A problem remains. If a salesperson simply blurted out “24/7 access!” to a CFO, that probably wouldn’t be successful. Most likely, the phrase would mean more to the seller than to the buyer. Feature names (nouns) don’t help buyers understand how the features can or could be used (verbs). Therefore, an additional step is needed to convert features into usage scenarios, as introduced in the previous chapter. Here again there are four components:

Event: The circumstance causing a need for the specific feature.

Question: Asking versus telling doesn’t feel like selling to the buyer.

Player: Who (or what system) will take action to respond to the event.

Action: How the feature can be used, stated in terms buyers can understand and relate to their job title. The description of the action should be specific enough so buyers can visualize how the result will be achieved. Terms used in a call with a CIO, for example, would be different from those used when calling on a CFO.

Let’s take a closer look at the feature 24/7 access to create a usage scenario for a conversation with a CFO about the goal of improving forecasting accuracy:

Event: When trying to determine the status of large opportunities,

Question: Would it be helpful if

Player: You

Action: Could access your pipeline via a laptop, anytime, anywhere, and review progress against standard milestones, without needing to talk with anyone in your sales organization?

Please note that the action refers to the ability to “access pipeline information via a laptop.” This degree of specificity and concreteness is deliberate. If it simply read, “could review progress against milestones without needing to talk with anyone in your sales organization,” the CFO probably would have no way of understanding how this would be accomplished.

In other words, the salesperson would be asking the CFO to either (1) imagine how it might work or (2) trust that it would work. But buyers—especially those who have authorized previous expenditures that haven’t performed as advertised—are likely to be very skeptical. (They will be short on imagination and trust.) And keep in mind that we want all buyers to be able to articulate what they are buying and why, if asked by another person within their organization to explain the offering. “I can use my laptop to access specific opportunities in the pipeline even when I am on the road,” the empowered buyer can say with confidence.

Here are the other three features selected for a discussion with a CFO about forecasting accuracy that have been converted to usage-scenario format:

Event: After making calls,

Question: Would you like

Player: Your salespeople

Action: To be prompted on their laptops to report progress against a standard set of milestones for each opportunity in their pipeline?

Event: On demand from any location,

Question: Would it be helpful if

Player: Your sales managers

Action: Could access the pipeline database for their salespeople, evaluate the status of specific opportunities, and email suggestions to reps to improve their chances of winning the business?

Event: On an ongoing basis,

Question: Would it be useful to you if

Player: The system

Action: Could track historical close rates for each salesperson by pipeline milestone, and apply them to each of the salesperson’s opportunities to predict revenue?

The next step would be to sequence these usage scenarios. This is usually driven by the order in which the buyer would be likely to encounter them. In this example, you want to lead the CFO to a vision of creating an accurate monthly forecast. The right sequence, therefore, is: pipeline milestones, electronic coaching, historical close rates, and 24/7 access.

Note that the feature we considered first—24/7 access—winds up being the last in the sequence. This kind of reshuffling is quite common, and illustrates the importance of approaching this task systematically.

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