B2B product launch teams can produce some great analyses. New products about to launch are regularly propelled into the spotlight of management and sales attention. Team presentations at big internal meetings typically become the focal point for a launch team’s activities: a launch planning meeting with the CMO, a pre-launch briefing with the CEO or a two hour session at the annual sales meeting.
Customer value is often a focal point in these new product launch presentations. Team members sometimes provide painstaking detail regarding how their product creates customer value. They show the in-depth estimates supporting their proposed value based pricing. They identify customer segments and plan offering strategies based on an extensive understanding of value. The analysis is dazzling. And launch meetings are always about generating momentum in the organization. More often than not, when the presentation is over, the launch team takes a victory lap.
The team’s sense of triumph is understandable. Quantifying value can be challenging. A team often needs to overcome hurdles to generate those moments in a meeting when product positioning and customer value become clear and the light bulb goes on for senior management.
But quantitative Value Analysis is not the primary endpoint. Value Analysis is unfinished business. Transforming that analysis into a useful, adoptable form that drives sales outcomes is what matters. Quantified value delivers little unless it is embedded in strong messages and sales tools that are effectively utilized by sales. Sales needs a Value Proposition that can be used in the product launch to engage customers in conversations about how the new product delivers business results.
Design Useful Value Propositions for Sales. CRM data from organizations adopting value selling show that opportunities where a Value Proposition is used: (1) have 5-15% higher win rates and (2) 5-25% higher price outcomes. There is good reason to make an investment of time and energy in Value Propositions.
With value analysis in hand, it sounds simple to Design Useful Value Propositions for Sales. Yet product launch teams rarely get it right. In order to provide great value tools, product teams need to pay attention to each of the four themes involved:
- Design. A product’s Value Proposition represents an important and often central piece of marketing content. Attention to design should be automatic. It is surprising how often basic design considerations are neglected in Value Propositions that are meant to be available at launch. Dense white papers with few images and poor messaging are unlikely to engage customer interest or accelerate uptake. Ugly, uninterpretable spreadsheets lacking consistent branding and basic graphics are unlikely to support early traction in the product launch.
Good design of Value Propositions, like the design of any marketing content, takes some thought and some work. Branding, layout and messaging are all important. The Value Proposition needs to be easy to find and easy to use. Product launch teams should ask some basic questions. Is the Value Proposition content that we would show to customers? Is the Value Proposition set up with ready access to key messages and key assumptions?
The second layer of design relates to how Value Propositions are likely to be used in the sales process. We will say more about this below, but it sometimes takes product managers or marketing communication professionals out of their comfort zone, into new territory, to design Value Propositions that will be used and adopted in sales. The authors of Value Propositions need to understand the likely sales process to design content and layout that will be useful in typical customer-facing conversations and presentations. They need to have a basic appreciation for the sales organization, including the role of presales specialists, to design Value Propositions that will be useful to members of the sales team with different objectives and skill sets. If Value Proposition authors don’t start with this background intelligence, then their best approach is to come up with v1 of the Value Proposition as a basis for internal discussions, testing and refining it to support identifiable sales use cases.
- Useful. Making Value Propositions useful has two dimensions. First, Value Propositions, including their content and their layout, need to be applicable to typical sales situations. This takes a focus on the sales process and organization. It also takes some insights regarding likely customer situations and how customers are expected to make their buying decisions.
Second, Value Propositions need to be usable or adoptable by sales and by presales. Focusing on adoption is critical. Is the content easy to find and easy to understand? Who is motivated to use it and how are they motivated? Is the Value Proposition in a format that is natural and easy for sales and presales? Baby boomers may be happier using PowerPoint slides while millennials are more comfortable with online point-and-click functionality. Sales is likely to want clear, simple summaries while presales may want or need the capability to customize solutions and content while drilling into, defending and refining detailed underlying assumptions. These are essential functional questions for the Value Proposition. Is it easy to share information? Is it easy to follow up with customers?
- Value Propositions. Clearly, the value content itself is important. First, the value content needs to be customer-centric, taking messages beyond product features to a focus on the customer’s business needs and business benefits. The content needs to be readily adaptable to customer specifics. Clear presentation of key customer assumptions for easy modification is part of the way that sales and presales can build trust as they engage the customer early in conversations about customer problems and opportunities.
Second, the best Value Propositions do not require any discovery early in the sales cycle to have initial conversations about how the product creates value. A Value Proposition builds in barriers to adoption when it requires a detailed list of questions to be answered before there is an order-of-magnitude result for value created or ROI. The rep needs to be equipped with the basis for a conversation that can help qualify an account without investing time in extensive discovery. Having benchmark data and relevant case study information to start the value conversation is the best approach to supporting value selling.
Third, the content needs to be readily adaptable to likely sales situations. Simple selection of alternative competitive reference points is important. A target customer may be comparing a product to a direct competitor in some conversations yet may need to consider purchasing the product relative to the status quo to obtain budget for the purchase. Providing an easy way to select between different competitors and different customer types with different objectives helps sales prepare for a customer meeting. Simple ways to choose between offerings, pricing models and natural combinations of products helps sales and presales adapt a solution to customer specifics.
Finally, the best Value Propositions provide the user with easy access to collateral supporting any specific assertions about product claims or the outcomes of purchasing and implementing our product. A call or meeting where presales and/or sales work through and respond to customer diligence questions about product performance is a critical session in terms of building trust. Credibility is enhanced with quick, clear supporting material.
- For Sales. Value Propositions are more than just content. They are a tool for use by sales teams in call preparation, conversations and presentations with customers. They need to be designed with users in mind where increasingly customer-facing teams include both sales representatives and presales professionals. It is important to design a Value Proposition with three dimensions of its use cases in mind. (1) When in the sales cycle will it be used? (2) Who will use it? (3) What are their objectives?
Increasingly, the best B2B teams use Value Propositions collaboratively to improve B2B sales team performance, addressing sales challenges throughout the B2B sales cycle. For account executives and sales reps, they are useful early in the sales cycle in call preparation, in building sales confidence, in qualifying opportunities and in engaging customer executives. For technical sales and presales professionals, joining a customer-facing team in the middle of the sales process, Value Propositions are an important way to address presales challenges and to maximize the impact of presales. Sales and presales teams, working together, use Value Propositions to highlight differentiation and cut through complexity as they collaborate with customer stakeholders to build a shared business case to buy. That shared business case can be used to accelerate the closing process.
Value Propositions are best designed to allow teams to peel the onion, bringing out only the information relevant to the current stage of the sales cycle, focusing the objectives of the conversation based on who is involved. Designing the Value Proposition for sales team users is essential. Learning from user feedback and refining and modifying is equally important.
3 Steps to Embed Communicable Value Propositions. “Communicable” is an adjective we usually apply to infectious diseases. In a strange way, it applies to Value Propositions. The aim with a Value Proposition is clearly to communicate, but it is also to make best practices infectious or viral within a sales organization. There are three steps or disciplines that management can take to embed Communicable Value in their organization.
- Internal value presentations should always be set up as Value Proposition rehearsals. Just presenting quantitative value analysis does not advance the all-important goal of communicating the value. Team members articulating and describing customer value should be asked to show it concretely as if they were having a conversation with a customer. This helps to condition the team to think about and refine the messaging and usability of the Value Proposition early in any new product process.
- Someone in any internal audience should ask questions customers would ask. An active audience in internal value presentations can help advance the cause of communicability by getting team members accustomed to and ready for the tough questions they should expect in commercial situations. This helps the team identify the points where they need to work on content. It also helps them think earlier about customer conversations and the best way to make content usable.
- Always test the Value Proposition in sales situations before rolling it out. Best practices are to test any new product on beta customers and early adopters. The same applies to Value Propositions. The first 2 or 3 value conversations can and should provide insights that result in agile style deployment. They can and should improve Value Proposition content and usability before driving its use more broadly in sales. The trial use of a Value Proposition in a customer situation can also provide practical experience in how sales and presales can have good value conversations. Success stories drive momentum in broader adoption.
Designing and publishing strong Value Propositions for sales is about more than getting the math right. It is about understanding how a Value Proposition can and will be used, designing its content and layout so that it supports customer conversations. Using it, testing it and refining it will result in continuing improvement in content and usability. The resulting Value Propositions are a shared basis for collaboration that help sales teams win.