Remember the theme from Cheers, the TV series about a friendly Boston pub and its memorable regulars? The opening theme refrain ran: "You want to go where everybody knows your name."Something similar is at work when it comes to building value propositions to grow revenue. To succeed, you've got to determine what makes the buyer tick.

People buy for personal reasons, while justifying their decisions with a business rationale. Understanding personal, and often hidden, motivations can help build your perceived value and enhance your revenue-growth capabilities like few other strategies. What's more, boosting your value permits you to charge a premium for your services.


A study of 1,200 executives and their buying criteria revealed leading factors in purchasing decisions. No. 1 was business understanding: the ability of the service provider to gain an understanding of prospects' operations and of themselves.

A personal example speaks volumes. Some years ago, I was in a tough battle for a prospect in a technical field. I discovered that the client taught at a local university on the side and wondered why, being fairly certain he didn't need to supplement his income. I learned that the prospect wanted to be on the cutting edge of his profession -- on the cusp of the newest knowledge.


Our team responded with an outside-the-box proposal that reflected his interests in innovation. One of the competitors focused on low price. The other focused on the depth and breadth of their resources. Our creativity won us the business. Sure, we had acceptable pricing and resources. But we weren't the cheapest, nor did we have the same extensive technical support.

However, that wasn't the winning strategy. We entered through a door no other provider had even known was open.


In today's super-competitive marketplace, it's not enough to demonstrate industry expertise and technical prowess. These will get you into the party, but they won't guarantee you a dance. Beyond what you know about business solutions, you've got to learn all you can about the prospect's personal objectives

Is he an accumulator of power? If so, create a proposed solution that puts him in the driver's seat. Is she a workaholic who thrives on complexity? In that case, make sure your solution is bold, far-reaching and comprehensive.

Your interviews with the prospective buyer may indicate that they love quick solutions, high technology or low risk. Build these preferences into what you propose, and how you propose it.

I recall coaching a firm through developing a large tax opportunity. When our team met with the company's tax director, it was clear he was overwhelmed due to a staffing shortage. With that in mind, we recommended that he outsource parts of the tax department. The idea of outsourcing appealed to him, especially when he understood not only that the work would be done to his exacting standards, but that our involvement meant that he could eat dinner with his family instead of coming home at 10 each night! The competitors merely complied with the points spelled out in the RFP, while our team dug for additional needs and proposed a broader solution.


Don't worry -- you don't have to be a psychologist to make this work. Success is not tied to your ability to dissect individual personalities. Rather, it's a matter of knowing the mechanics of opportunity pursuit and being aware that personal needs drive high-value individual propositions, which, in turn, drive win rates. The best business developers in the business think like this, and now you can, too.

Remember, personal agendas are often hidden, so have your antennae up at all times. Good questioning techniques reveal hidden needs. And one-on-one meetings encourage prospects to reveal more personal information. Why remain "just a vendor" when you can make the transition to creative problem-solver and enhance your odds to win more opportunities?

Gale Crosley, CPA, is the founder and principal of Crosley + Co. (, providing revenue growth consulting and coaching to CPA firms. Reach her at Copyright 2008 by Crosley + Co.

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