Of course, your software is superior to the competition’s. It’s faster, more accurate, more comprehensive than anything else out there. It causes efficiencies, increases productivity. And so you shout it from the rooftops. You plaster it on your home page. Run lead gen campaigns that tout your big betterness. You talk about it with prospects.  And your sales … are flat. WTH? Why haven’t you been able to move the needle? It’s because better isn’t always better.

They’re Not Car Collectors
Purchasing enterprise software is not like buying a Ferrari. Buyers aren’t moved by upticks in performance. Performance is table stakes. If your product isn’t performing, it’s not even in the consideration set. So better performance – in and of itself isn’t going to motivate anyone to consider, or to purchase. It’s not going to cause anyone to rip out their current systems. And changing software is a painful thing.

What is interesting to your prospect is how your better product makes their lives better. How does more accuracy in your product change their world? Are you decreasing costs? Making onboarding of new customers faster? Are you improving morale or compliance at the organization? Does your software make them look smart? That’s the headline that you should be splashing everywhere. Better just doesn’t matter unless it’s put into the context of your prospect’s situation and enhances their reputation as smart decision makers, and makes everyone in the company say. “Damn! Good call!”

The Dreaded Box Checker
The extreme version of better isn’t better happens when you run into a prospect that’s a Box Checker. This happened a lot for a client in the security software space. They had been touting the virtues of their cloud-based security to prospects. It was better than the hardware being used to protect networks. It caught more threats – so it provided better security. What Chief Security Officer wouldn’t want something that was quantitatively proven to be better? The answer was – almost all of them.

You would think that if you’re in charge of network and data security, and you’re shown something that’s more secure, you would jump at the chance to purchase it. But when we dug deeper, we discovered that security breaches were a fact of life for CSO’s. No matter how much better security products were, they could never prevent every breach. Scary as that sounds, it was true. There would always be new attacks, new threats and something would eventually happen. So all they wanted to do when it came to security was to be able to show that they had done what they were supposed to do to prevent hacks. Did they have a firewall? Check. Did they have proper authentication procedures? Check. Did they have policies about employees using data in cloud applications? Check. As long as they had checked the boxes, they were ok when the next breach happened.  There were too many different kinds of threats to keep track of them all and too many products needed to prevent them. They were all arguable better at something, but no company could pay for or implement all of them. At some point, you had to say, “Have we done what we are supposed to do?” The box checker doesn’t care about better. The box checker wants good enough.

Don’t Condemn the CSO
CSO’s aren’t alone in this behavior. Box checking happens in a lot of industries. Think about insurance. I will wager that a good number of my followers in California own a home but don’t have earthquake insurance. It’s not MANDATORY, so you don’t get it. You get what you’re supposed to – homeowner’s insurance – so you’ve checked the box for your mortgage lender. Earthquake insurance might be BETTER than no earthquake insurance, but at some point, you can’t afford to keep paying more for everything that’s better. You go with what you’re supposed to have.

If you can’t sell better, because you are competing in a sea of better, you need to appeal to the issue that goes beyond better. In the case of security software, it was about creating a new vision that extended beyond security. It was about enabling the new distributed workforce, helping global companies and their employees work where, when and how they wanted – securely. The old network-based security was obsolete, the network was now the world wide web, and you had to let your employees use cloud apps, and mobile phones and work from home or anywhere they could get online. A cloud-based security system could do this in a way the traditional firewalls placed on the network never could. This was a tangible benefit for the entire organization and allowed the prospect to be viewed as a more strategic player. In effect, we un-boxed the box checker.

So before you go touting your better, newer version of your software, ask yourself how does our better product make the lives and jobs of our prospect better. Emotionally and professionally better. You’ll get a much better response.

What’s your experience – is better really better? Let me know in the comments.

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