This is NOT your value prop
The Gist: move away from time savings in order to get past the CFO
Welcome back to the eighth edition of The Gist by Growth Unhinged.
The Gist is my attempt to get to the point — giving you one specific action item to grow faster. You can catch up on the most popular editions here:
Today, we’re focusing on value propositions.
Most software helps customers save time by automating work that would normally be done manually with pencil-and-paper or spreadsheets. Automation and AI-centric products further streamline work and accelerate these time savings. We’ve all seen the viral Twitter threads on how to shave hours off your day with AI, haven’t we?
My take: time savings is NOT your true value proposition.
Let’s dive in 👇
“Time savings” may be a benefit of your product. In fact, it probably is. But it shouldn’t be your central value proposition. You need to connect your value prop to the customer’s actual priorities and hard ROI business outcomes.
Why you should care
Sure, saving time helps get end users interested in learning more.
Here’s the thing: time savings isn't differentiated, doesn't create urgency, and doesn't capture real $$$. A business case built on saving time won’t stand a chance of getting past the CFO.
🙅♂️ No differentiation.
Nearly every software product promises to save folks time. Isn't that the goal of software after all?
You need to go deeper to pinpoint what's different about your approach and how that helps both the user and the business.
🐢 No urgency.
CFOs are increasingly asking: “Why do we need [X] tool now? We were fine before.”
The status quo probably works alright, even if it does take time. And there's time (and risk) involved in evaluating products, getting implemented, and deploying across the business. The promise of future time savings just isn't worth the effort for most folks. You need to attach your value prop to the customer's actual priorities and business outcomes.
💰 No pricing power.
The ROI calculator might show a big return from helping folks save time. Even still, CFOs won’t trust it unless there’s a hard ROI attached to saving time. If you aren’t displacing headcount or growing revenue, the customer may never realize actual ROI.
You need to connect into the broader benefits around what folks can accomplish with that extra time.
Are they able to execute more projects with the same staff?
Can they ship products faster, giving them a competitive edge?
Are they able to do the same amount of work with a smaller team?
Let’s walk through a few examples of products that save time, yet cleverly connect their value proposition to something bigger with hard ROI.
Jasper.ai is an AI copywriter that saves time in generating content from social media posts to cold emails. Their messages highlight:
Quantity of output: “10x your content output”
Quality & brand alignment: “Create amazing content tailored to your brand"“
Speed to market: “10x faster with AI”
Calendly1 helps people save time by reducing the back-and-forth of scheduling meetings. While that value proposition gets the end user excited to sign up, Calendly’s website then translates the value proposition into tailored messages for high-value scheduling use cases. Calendly’s sales messages point to:
“Book high-value meetings in seconds.”
“Remove logistical tasks to focus on selling.”
Speed: “Keep your deal momentum high and remove scheduling friction at every stage of your sales cycle.”
Productboard makes product management software that saves teams time in planning their roadmap. Their messages emphasize:
Innovation: “Get the right products to market, faster.”
Quality: “Make what you know customers want.”
Logikcull provides legal software products that save time with manual tasks such as eDiscovery and legal holds. Their messages speak to what that unlocks:
Less vendor spend: “See how Twilio saved $360k on outside legal spend.”
Control: “No more waiting around for vendors.”
Figma makes collaborative interfaces to help folks save time in the design process. Their messages unpack the ultimate benefit of this collaboration:
Quality: “Nothing great is made alone.”
Speed to market: “Figma connects everyone in the design process so teams can deliver better products, faster.”
Zapier is an automation tool that lets folks easily connect their business apps. Saving time from manually connecting those tools is the point of the product. While Zapier does talk about time savings, they emphasize what users can do with that extra time:
Higher-value work: “Do what you do best, let Zapier do the rest.”
Let’s unpack this further. If saving time is the main benefit of your product, how do you build upon this benefit in a way that will land with users, buyers, and the CFO?
Does that time savings result in lower costs?
Save fully-loaded FTE costs
Displace external vendor spend (ex: number of hours of a freelancer, contractor, or consultant)
Does that time savings result in higher revenue?
Get to market faster, allowing customers to tap into new revenue streams
Get to market better, allowing customers to win against their competitors
Get to market predictably, allowing customers to have more confidence in their future performance
Focus on one of these hard-ROI drivers rather than claiming all five in order to build a believable business case. These second-order benefits have a better chance of landing with your customers and getting past the watchful eye of the CFO. Here’s hoping anyway 🍻
A CFO’s perspective
I pingedof about their reaction when they see "time savings" as the value proposition of a software purchase. They didn't mince words, "Sorry, but time savings doesn't make your software special."
Here’s the full CFO perspective:
“Saving time is table stakes for most software purchases. If increasing efficiency is the point of your tool, then of course all your competitors do the same. I have seen too many product demos claiming "we are the only ones doing this" or "our approach saves more time/money than anyone else". Sorry, but time savings doesn't make your software special.
Also, I rarely believe the level of time savings promised, so sales folks need to be careful about their promises because it will destroy trust quickly and kill a deal.”
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What else you should know
Are CFOs killing your deals?unpacked how CFOs think about software purchases today and how to win them over. Check it out.
SaaS seems to love complicated metrics. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love a few of them, too. An increasingly important one is shockingly simple: ARR per FTE. Here’s how to tell whether you’re on the right track.
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👋 I’m about to head on the road for a few speaking gigs. You can catch me at Point Nine’s Founder Summit (May 6), SaaStr Europa in London (June 7th), and PLGTM in NYC (June 27th). Drop me a note if you’ll be in town!
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