Value Selling is a proven way for B2B companies to increase win rates and improve profitability. Despite this, most companies don’t realize these benefits. Why is that? Why don’t most organizations get started? When I talk with sales leaders on a daily basis, there are four main obstacles that teams face getting started Value Selling.
- Executive Buy-In. No question about it – you need executive buy-in if you are going to be successful in any new sales initiative, especially Value Selling. Leadership needs to voice both reasons for change and support of the efforts. Without that, it’s left up to individuals and, as you can imagine, everyone has a lot on their plate. If something is not mandatory, and if it’s not considered necessary for this quarter’s business, unfortunately it falls to the bottom of our to-do list.
- Sales skills/training: I think about three generations of sales skills. The first generation was years ago when salespeople only invested in relationships – buying dinners and such – in order to sway buyers. 20 years ago, that shifted to more of a product and solution focus. This is still the dominant approach. As a result, salespeople have become effective at talking about features and benefits, but typically overwhelm customers with dozens of PowerPoint slides. This results in a heavily one-way conversation with the sales rep focusing much less on the specific needs of the customer.
Fortunately, this is finally changing. The best sales reps (top 10-20%) can articulate their offerings financial impact on their customer’s business. This is value selling. The ability to speak to an individual buyers’ specific needs, and link them to quantified outcomes that result from investment comes naturally to top performers in most sales teams. However, the majority of sales reps don’t do this naturally, and investing in training and tools to assist them is a necessary first step to solving this. The good news is that positively impacting the Value Selling skills of the middle of your salesforce will provide the greatest revenue boost possible….and it can be quantified!
- Competing Initiatives: Sales professionals are usually juggling several priorities on top of their primary objective of hitting quota. Initiatives like value selling can get pushed off if something perceived as more immediately urgent comes up. Like any business transformation, Value Selling cannot be treated as a quick fix, nor can it be given the “flavor of the month” treatment. It needs to be a shared, sustained focus across different functions (such as marketing, product management, pricing) within the commercial team.
- Lack of Data: It may sound like a minor issue but looking back at all of the conversations that I’ve had over the years, “lack of data” is actually the item that stops many companies from taking the first step. Overcoming the other obstacles are still medium-to-long term challenges, but perceived lack of data is something that will stop Value Selling momentum in its tracks. It shouldn’t, let’s talk about why.
When I have these conversations, and I hear things like:
- “Well, we just don’t have the data.”
- “We don’t know enough about our competitor, what they charge, what the specs are for their products.”
- “We don’t know enough about how our product impacts our customers. We know they’re buying it and we know they’re generally happy. Maybe they’re coming back and buying more but if you ask us the hard question of “why?”, we could offer a few answers, but not with confidence
- “We’re going to go figure that out and then we’ll focus on value once we understand that.”
There are two steps that are usually required to overcome this:
- Figuring out the right questions to ask
- Getting the right data to answer those questions
In a future blog, we will explore ways address the first item. The process centers around questions like “What are the top three areas of value that we provide to our customers?” Next, take each area individually, and develop a set of questions that will flush out the business impact that each one of those has
Focusing on the second step, we find that the best way to get started value selling quickly is to find data within your organization that answers those questions. I’ve worked with companies that struggle with looking for perfect data, and this has a negative impact on value selling momentum.
Instead of looking for perfect data, I recommend getting good data that supports the important questions you’re asking, then refine as you go along. Here are four places I tell people to look first:
- Siloed Data: One of our first recommendations is to get started by identifying where data lives in your organization. A ton of that knowledge exists in the heads of your colleagues today. The quickest and least expensive strategy is gathering that data in a single place through surveys. Start by understanding the questions you need to ask. If you put together a survey of salespeople, technical/pre-salespeople, marketing, product management, customer success, and pricing, you’ll find that there is a lot of data that is either already gathered but siloed. Step one is gathering this information in a single place.
- Anecdotal Data: Another easy and quick way to get started is to have informal win/loss survey conversations with your sales colleagues about competitive offerings that they’re running into consistently. Internal surveys also accomplish this goal. Ask your colleagues a handful of questions, put all that data together, and you’re off.
- Internally-Produced Case Studies: Another area that we see as being a good place to start are your existing case studies. Most, if not all, organizations have developed case studies for their offerings. They typically consist of one or two pages, and usually have, at minimum, the beginnings of a value story. These case studies tend to focus on the anecdotal benefits and quantified outcomes of your offering (“our offering helped Company X reduce their costs by 35%”) for one specific customer.
- Analyst Case Studies/Reports: Finally, another good place to start gathering data is with analyst research and reports, if you have the budget. Many B2B Marketing teams work with analysts such as IDC, Forrester and Gartner, who will do the research for you, but will of course charge you for that. These engagements do provide value, especially if you have a product launch coming up or if you have a product that is in an excellent position in the market.
Top B2B companies develop Value propositions that speak to the buyer’s specific needs. These Value propositions are used throughout the sales process, from beginning to end, to convey the dollarized impact of your offering on the specific buyer. The ability to turn a customized value proposition into a shared business case to buy is critical. Whether these presentations are internally developed, or generated using a tool like LeveragePoint, incorporating the data that you gather is key to getting started with Value Selling. Gathering the data that your organization already has is often enough to get started and build momentum.