For our December Webinar, Brian Hannon, VP of Sales at LeveragePoint, contextualized some of the key B2B sales trends from the past year with a focus on how commercial teams can better engage their customers in value conversations. At the end of the session, he answered questions from the audience. In this blog, we share his live answers.
What is the best way to open a Value conversation when I might not know all of the customer-specific data I need to make a Value Story?
Yeah, we get that question a lot and I’d say there’s two answers to that. One answer is that individually, you may not know all of the customer-specific data, but as an organization you will. So our recommendation is that you create a cross-functional team, especially if you’re doing this for the first time, that might involve a product manager for the offering that you’re focused on, a marketing person – say a pre-sales type who hears different discussions at different customers, and maybe a sales person as well. When all of those people put their heads together, the amount of data that comes out of that collaboration is 10x the amount that you would get on your own. And what we find is that organizations that claim they don’t have the data, suddenly have the data.
And even if you don’t have 100% of it, you can put a value story together based on how you think you are improving a customer’s operation or business. And if you go into a conversation and say, “hey, this is an estimate where we’re gathering data from different customers. We’re not claiming this is a hundred percent correct, but we want your feedback, Mr./Mrs. Prospect.” Then they may tell you that you are way off. And that conversation then informs the value story.
So maybe you’re going in and having conversations with existing customers and showing them the value story you’ve put together, getting their feedback, making changes, and you’ll get it to a point where you’re ready to go with a new prospect. Now, you’ve beaten up the value story enough and gotten enough feedback that now you can take that same approach with a new prospect. “Hey, this is our best estimate of how we think we can help you improve your business. Can we spend some time walking through it? Those conversations will, in general, go pretty well. If you go in with the attitude of, “we know exactly how your business runs,” then you might either get silenced or you might get pushed back. So it can also be not just the data, but the approach.
I work on a team of salespeople who have sold on features/benefits in an in-person setting for decades. How would I get them on board?
So there’s a couple of different ways. We recommend sales leadership be involved early on. So if salespeople see that their management thinks that this is critical, that is one of the factors that will inform their either desire to participate or not.
I would say getting leadership onboard is one, but the other one, which is probably more effective, is that running an experiment with a subset of salespeople and capturing the data from that experiment. This is critical because salespeople look to their colleagues, especially the successful ones for how they should do things, and changes they should make in their process. If you are presenting to the general salesforce, “here’s a value story that some of the best salespeople in the organization helped create. It inherently has their best practices embedded in the story. And, by the way, we’ve used this for six months and they found that they’re closing more business and their commission checks are bigger.”
I’ll bet that type of a story will generate a lot of interest. And you’d be surprised that salespeople are looking for things like this. They sometimes just don’t know how to articulate it. If they get evidence from their colleagues, then you’ll find them jumping on board quickly.
There are dozens of potential impacts for the industry I work in. How do I determine which impacts to present to which stakeholders?
So we call them value drivers. I think a lot of people refer them that way. What you’ll find within an organization, if you sit your salespeople down and you start to talk to them about what a CFO conversation [looks like]. “A CFO is interested in these elements, my operations person doesn’t care about those, but cares about these.”
What you’ll end up creating is a chart the people and their value drivers, and you can put an X in the box where they match. And then, especially with our value stories, which are customizable, you can literally turn on or turn off value drivers based on who you’re speaking with and we’ll update and create a unique value story for your Director of Operations versus your CFO. So you can decide before heading in which story you want to tell.
How soon after we win a deal should we introduce a customer Value Proposition?
So it should be right away, when you should introduce value. Literally the first conversation after you sign a contract, it should be an expectation of every conversation or the key conversations. I should say that you’re having post-sale conversations with customers. You should be using value as a target, and as we discussed earlier, using it to help you set goals and the expectations along with them. It should be interwoven throughout all your conversations and you should start right away.