If you are in marketing or sales, chances are it isn't because you aced linear systems in college. Truth is, math intimidates many of us, and so the attention around ROI can be daunting.

ROI is dominating modern marketing's methods and means. Sales and marketing professionals are now asked to determine payback periods and present values. While not a problem for most pros, let's just say grinding out spreadsheets isn't as fun as a round of golf or lunch Upstairs at 21. Sales and marketing have changed. Permanently.

What gets lost in the math phobia is that selling ROI does in fact require very human, very relationship-driven, qualitative skills. These skills are far more important than the financial formulas that are so alien to most of us.

Credibility adds up

Credibility, not math, is the most important factor when your marketing and selling leverages ROI. Causal relationships between your offering and the results you claim it generates still require a bit of faith on the part of the prospect.

You may know how your offering pays back, but typically you have to demonstrate it. That requires way more than a simple spreadsheet.

In fact, it requires three key elements:

  1. Articulating the customer's true need in a way that benefits the customer more than you

  2. Establishing a causal relationship between your offering and a positive financial impact for your prospect

  3. Helping to resolve the prospect's need, even if it's not met by your solution

See, no math.

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Tom Barnes is CEO of Mediathink (www.mediathink.com), a consultancy specializing in media and marketing strategy and implementation. Contact him at tom@mediathink.com.