Numbers Can Be Your Best Friend. Really!

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Author : Ruth Henderson
Published: July 11, 2012

If you think you can get clients to believe you based only on your charm and good looks, you’re wrong. There is a reason that people ask you to put your money where your mouth is – they want you to “Prove It!” And it’s easy, I promise.

Is it Faster to New York or By Bus?

Consider the question just posed. It’s obviously unanswerable – there is no starting point, and there is no option to even consider. That’s the way it is with most, if not all, business proposals that have no data, no points of reference, and, therefore, no way of answering the question or making the decision.

Have you ever presented a great idea only to have people stare at you and just not “get it”? Do you present dynamically and passionately, and then leave the room without a decision from the people who control the purse strings? If someone asks you to gather “relevant data” do you sometimes feel overwhelmed?

Never fear. Although numbers are important, the use of them does NOT have to be complicated and threatening to you, your team, or even your proposal. In fact, just a few key numbers can help you be more successful every day.

Just remember that of the three improvement process steps (“Define It! Map It! Prove It!”), the most important by far is “Prove It!”

Main Goal: Help People Believe You

You walk into a room hoping to convince a client to sign you for some consulting work. Your pitch is catchy, clearly shows what you are going to do for the client, and discusses the benefits to them. A sentence might go something like, “our assessment shows your costs are going up because staff aren’t trained properly, so we will work with you to start a comprehensive training program.”

You might as well be asking whether it’s farther to New York or by bus. Any financial controller worth their salt will look at you and say, “Prove it!” and then hit you with a barrage of questions:

“How much have costs gone up? Over what period? Is the increase significant compared to sales volume? Could anything else be causing costs to go up? How do you know it’s training that’s the problem?”

If you don’t have those numbers to tell your story, the chance of you convincing the financial controller to hire you and spend money on your recommended solution are very low. If, on the other hand, you can add a few simple numbers that answer questions before they are asked, the controller will have no choice but to support the idea!

For example, one could say: “Your cost per unit has increased in the last three quarters by 5% each quarter even though sales have been stable over the same period. The only major change in the organization has been the addition of 25 new sales employees who have not yet met their targets. This is costing you more than $50,000 in lost revenue per month. Analysis shows that the new employees would benefit from training on your defined sales process, and we are the people who can help you with that training.”

Anticipate the questions. Gather the simple numbers. Prove it!