There is no such thing as a predictable B2B sales cycle.
For B2B sales of complex products and solutions, closing a big deal is like winning the national championship. One loss and you are out. Every game is tougher than the last. And you never know which player will come through in the clutch. Or not…
You never rest your best player for the first round on the overconfident assumption that you will make the Final Four. The first game is the whole season and you use your best weapons.
The same holds for sales reps and Value Propositions. Good sales reps use good Value Propositions early and repeatedly in the sales process. Here are 4 ways that using Value Propositions fast improves the odds of a deal moving forward to the next round.
1. Enhance Call Prep. Few B2B marketing teams understand how much time their best sales reps spend preparing for initial customer calls. Good B2B reps plan their early calls carefully, understanding a prospect and figuring out the best approach to those first conversations. The rep checks out the company website and investor materials, looks at the LinkedIn profile of the lead, checks out connections and starts to think about which opportunity makes sense for a conversation with a specific target. When good Value Propositions are available and easy to find, they enhance the process of sales rep call preparation in several ways:
- By helping the rep to understand how our product can benefit the customer. A good Value Proposition has concrete, quantified messages about how our product helps our customer. Even without refined quantitative assumptions or accurate numerical conclusions, a good Value Proposition highlights qualitative customer benefit in a clear precise way that is readily articulated by good reps.
- By helping the rep understand the customer’s business. Value Propositions highlight the point in a customer’s underlying business where our product delivers value. That tells the rep as much about the customer as it does about our product. Knowing something about the customer helps begin the customer conversation. It is key to getting the customer to take a call and to getting the customer to stay engaged.
- By building sales confidence. A well-supported proposition, affirming that our product improves performance for a target customer, is confidence-enhancing for the sales rep. Understanding where, in the customer’s business, our product delivers value builds rep confidence to ask the right questions and to highlight our differentiation.
Good Value Propositions make call prep more efficient and more effective. Sales confidence improves sales outcomes and faster customer engagement
2. Build Customer Engagement. Customers rarely like a ball hog. Reps who talk nonstop rarely succeed. Value Propositions set sales reps up to make the pass. A good sales rep always tries to get the customer talking, to build rapport and trust. By linking our product with the customer’s business, a Value Proposition is inherently customer-centric. It provides a natural prompt to get customers to talk about themselves and their business. Reps deploy elements of good Value Propositions to engage customers in conversation in several ways:
- with questions or statements about a customer’s problems or challenges that are addressed by our product,
- with statements about customer benefits or value drivers that elicit a reaction or entice the customer to engage by talking about their business,
- with natural discovery questions that help tailor a quantified Value Proposition to the customer’s unique situation. Reps on autopilot, talking just about us and just about our product, are destined to failure.
Reps who get customers to talk about themselves build trust and set themselves up to move to the next round.
3. Collaborate with the Customer. Good reps use Value Propositions to get the customer to accept and believe that we are on their team. Moving from the opposite side of the table to the same side of the table is huge in any sales relationship. Value Propositions help to change the perceived relationship between vendor and customer in several ways:
- Value Propositions quantify customer success and improved customer profitability, prompting an awareness of how individual stakeholders can succeed and how their companies can outperform. Value Propositions enable sales reps to have customer conversations about what customers care about. Customer Value changes the tone of the customer conversation from tense and reserved to collaborative.
- Tailoring a Value Proposition to customer specifics is a collaborative process. It involves an individual stakeholder providing information that results in better validation of the Value Proposition. It is a conversation between sales and the customer with a positive outcome for the customer.
- A transparent conversation about how Customer Value is quantified, openly and confidently dealing with customer objections and challenges, helps to build customer trust and confidence in the vendor and in the vendor’s sales rep.
The process of tailoring, refining and improving a Value Proposition iteratively with a customer stakeholder builds sales teamwork with the customer.
4. Get to the Next Round. Value Propositions are rarely one and done. They can be used early as a headline or later as a way to focus on our resonating points of differentiation. Value Propositions can feed soundbites to get immediate results from a stakeholder with a short attention span, can be presented logically and linearly in clear steps, or can serve as the basis for an interactive, in-depth follow-up meeting with evaluating customer stakeholders. Putting a Value Proposition into the game in the opening round can establish the basis for bringing it back in better form as the tournament progresses. Here are a few ways that Value Propositions can help get to the next round:
- A headline of quantified customer value can provide an initial customer contact a soundbite to get attention internally for a call or meeting with a broader audience.
- A value headline can persuade early stakeholders that introducing us more broadly in their organization is low risk.
- Highlighting our quantitative value drivers can give stakeholders a reason to spend time looking at our product more closely.
- Validating our quantified value and getting buy-in from evaluating stakeholders builds organizational consensus to move forward with us.
- Buy-in from business stakeholders regarding our differentiation and our value can enlist their support in speeding up deal cycles with their legal and procurement departments.
Great Value Propositions are useful active weapons that help sales accelerate long and complex sales processes. Value Propositions work best if they are deployed early and if product managers design them with an understanding of how they will be used in customer conversations. Essential elements of a good value proposition include ready access to collateral and the ability to support customer conversations to validate a product’s value. But Value Propositions drive sales success most predictably when their adoption is strongly supported by an active plan. The best marketing, product management, pre-sales and sales teams realize this, implement a coherent approach to the adoption of value selling and deliver results effectively and collaboratively.