In B2B sales, why you need to focus more on COI than ROI.

As most senior B2B sales people know, the biggest competitor you have, in any B2B sales situation, is the ubiquitous Status Quo.

Most B2B company buyers are fearful of moving forward because you have not explained to them the value of moving forward, or more importantly, the cost of standing still – the cost of their inaction; their COI


In one of their surveys, Forrester found that when they talked to B2B buyers, these buyers reported that only 1 in 10 sales people were effective at communicating value rather than simply pitching their solution.

That’s pretty scary, especially in today’s ultra-competitive world. Only 10% of B2B sales people are effective communicators of their company’s value.

And CSO Insights (a B2B sales research firm) has found that in their Sales Key Trends Analysis survey that the average win rate of forecast deals was only 47.9%.

Realize that these are forecast deals. These are deals that these B2B sales people actually believe are going to close sometime this year.

Being wrong 52.1% of the time means that things are going on in the B2B sales process that salespeople are not aware of.

They are not aware of these things for many reasons.

But the biggest reason is lack of understanding of the value their firms bring.

And this is caused by a lack of training and coaching for these B2B sales people, especially on how to qualify in or out.

So this gets us back to the headline.

What does ROI vs COI mean?

We all know that ROI is Return on Investment.

COI means Cost of Inaction.

And COI is the biggest reason that B2B buyers do not buy from your company, or in many cases, from any company.


Here are some interesting findings from a few research firms and marketing gurus.

There seems to be a convergence amongst thought leaders and pundits around “B2B value selling”, including the introduction of new value-focused methodologies such as Outcome and Provocation-Based Selling.

It follows right along with what I have been blogging about for the past few years, that value selling, on outcomes, is the only way to sell in the B2B world. So what are the pundits seeing that is finally driving the change?

• At Forrester, sales enablement analyst Scott Santucci indicates that “We are in the middle of a major transformation in the B2B sales model, driven by customer’s enterprise-wide strategic procurement initiatives to buy only what they need at the lowest possible price”.

• Marketing luminary Seth Godin indicates that “No business buys a solution for a problem they don’t have.” And yet, so many B2B marketers launch into presenting the cool features and functions of their product, without taking the time to understand if the person on the other end of the conversation/call/letter believes they even have a problem that the product hopes to solve.

b2b sales - Cost of Inaction - coi• At IDC, research indicates that B2B purchase decisions, more than ever, are being driven by financial requirements, such as enabling business growth (30%), improving profitability (25%), and reducing costs (22%) versus other goals, leaving the economic-focused buyer clearly in control.

• Marketing guru Geoffrey Moore, who’s Crossing the Chasm book (a must read for all B2B sellers & marketers) remains the guidebook for many technology marketers, indicates that buyers are forced to do-more-with-less, leaving less than 15% in discretionary funds to fund new projects. And with less money to go around, proposals are subjected to higher levels of review in buying organizations.

• At Sirius Decisions, analyst Jim Ninnivagi indicates that it’s easier for B2B buyers to “do-nothing” than “challenge the status quo”, leading to hundreds of missed selling opportunities and stuck sales processes.

As a result of the fundamental changes in B2B buyers, each of these analysts is indicating that you must focus on customer outcomes, and change the way we sell and market to more empowered, skeptical and frugal buyers.

But even focusing strictly on outcomes does not make a lot of these companies buy from you, or for that matter, anyone else.

You must help these buyers understand what happens if they stay with the status quo.

You must make them recognize not only the value of your solution, but more importantly, why they need to move to your solution, and why the need to do it now.

You need to stretch the value gap by identifying the quantifiable incremental benefits that your solution offers over all the other ways in which the prospect might choose to solve the problem. Not just your obvious competitors – but all the other options, including solving the problem “in house, or the status quo”


b2b sales Sales FormulaMore importantly, you need to make them realize their COI, their cost of their inaction.

So, how do you do this? How do you make them realize their COI?

You do this by first tailoring what you have learned about the prospect’s specific needs to an equally specific set of your capabilities, IE: the value you can bring this prospect.

A short, powerful list of real results, to both the individual and his/her company, is much more effective and impactful than a long list of minor benefits that other companies may have received.

Your unique value must stand out in the context of their situation. The combination must be easy to explain and prove, and difficult for any of the other options to claim.

Only then can you answer this prospect’s real concerns about;• Why change• why now, and• why you

Show your prospect why they need to change, and demonstrate to them the consequences of not changing, and especially not changing with your solution will keep them from progressing, and more than likely, regressing.

Show them COI – their Costs of Inaction.

If you are talking to the main decision maker, and he/she still does not see the value of changing, then walk away, and focus your efforts on prospects that do see the value of change, and especially change with your solution.

BTW – if you do show their COI, you will be ahead of 95% of your competition in your sales efforts.

If you want to find out how COI can work in your company, with your clients and prospects, send me an email with some available times, and let’s have a chat about how you and your team can use this valuable tool.

There is no charge for this, and everyone I talk to tells me they learned something.

Send me an email now, and let’s get started.

Ian DaintyKind regards,Ian DaintyIan Dainty’s Email


  • Great information. I have already changed the way I see things when talking with my customers and prospects.

  • Really great read. A straight forward, but underutilized approach to selling. I certainly indirectly refer to COI, but will focus on this becoming more of the discussion focus.

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