After our November 2017 Webinar, Value Propositions Help B2B Sales Teams Win: Are Yours Sales-ready?, attendees had the opportunity to fire some questions at our CEO, Peyton Marshall. You can view the full webinar recording and/or download the slide deck HERE.
Who should be driving this organizational change [using Value Propositions in sales conversations]?
Peyton: Change management’s an interesting topic. For this organizational change, the natural drivers are the marketing people responsible for sales effectiveness. Sometimes they’re not the only driver, but they’re often the best driver. Those people sometimes have other titles; they may be sales enablement specialists, there may be field sales, it may be a function of general marketing professionals to drive sales effectiveness. etc. But I think we see them as the primary drivers.
Based off of your experience, is there any secret sauce to sales’ success?
Peyton: Well, I think it’s no secret that starting small and getting success is a good basis for building momentum. So the real question is how do you do that? How do you start small and get success? And we think of there being four key ingredients here:
- First is the Value Proposition itself – pick a strategic, differentiated product. Pick one that matters and make sure the quality of the Value Proposition content is good.
- Second is sales leadership buy-in – even if the driver of the content is coming from the marketing or sales enablement team, the sales leader is very important in getting the focus of the initial pilot team.
- The third component here is what we call a “sales mobilizer” – it’s someone who’s good enough at the sort of technical side of the product to get into it, but someone who has direct customer experience and credibility. So that mobilizer becomes a very important first user of the Value Proposition in front of the customer. And more important than that, they’re the person to test the value proposition and get it refined, simplified, easier to use because, guess what, sometimes you start off complicated. So they’re a key voice in making this Value Proposition usable and easy, because their aim is going to be to get success early and work with the other members of the sales pilot team.
- Number four is to go out there and test it on ten opportunities – Do a good job getting that value proposition in front of those ten opportunities, getting the learnings from those ten opportunities, sharing the experience of those ten opportunities, and finding those success stories there.
You’ve made a compelling case for getting the Value Propositions in the hands of salespeople, but what’s step one? Where should we start?
Peyton: Case study. A case study is really a very natural place to start. Almost all businesses have some existing case studies that really get at this first question of the Value Proposition: what do you do for your customer? And the problem right now is those case studies are usually static content in a PDF that just gets emailed out and never actually gets used in a conversation. The reason they tend not to is often because they’re relatively inflexible and relatively unadaptable. So the idea that gets this going is to talk about another customer’s experience. It’s very natural to talk about that experience of success by other customers, but use that conversation to bridge to the target account you’re engaging today.
Let’s follow-up on that a little here and clarify the terminology that we’re using. At what point would you say a Value Proposition becomes a business case? Can you walk us through those terms a little bit more?
Peyton: I think that’s a very interesting one. In the middle of the sales cycle, what’s often the case, is you’re spending the most time and the most energy convincing/building consensus with your customer about your value drivers. You know you’re getting there if you’ve got buy-in on the value drivers as they apply to the prospect, and that it’s very natural to consider those value drivers in light of the price of the product. It’s turning into a shared business case at the point where you’re reintroducing price. And you always have to be ready to answer price questions, but what’s often the case is you can orchestrate your conversations with stakeholders to focus on business benefits, qualitative, quantitative and financial value drivers in the middle of the sales cycle.
We struggle with measuring how sales moves the needle using these kinds of tools. What one company does won’t be the same for another. So how can you justify the return? What do you recommend for showing aggregated results?
Peyton: When you can get to the point of measuring your salespeople’s use of Value Propositions versus not, you begin to have pretty clear data that’s being captured in your CRM. Now that’s a nice end point and that end point usually doesn’t materialize in the first six – nine months of sales use, because we’re talking about starting small, expanding or rolling out. So, the earliest evidence of usefulness actually comes from the direct feedback. It comes from the the success stories that may be about some qualitative elements. I mean, most companies using Value Propositions have pretty long sales cycles to begin with. So the typical first use is is anything from, “I use the value prop to help me prepare my conversation,” that’s starting to be evidence. “I use the Value Proposition to engage, and my customer who used to ask me about price a lot then stopped doing that.” And I know that’s anecdotal and I know it’s qualitative, but when you start to get some of that sales feedback, it helps generate momentum and get other salespeople using it. So I would say success stories, even if they’re anecdotal, are a good intermediate step before you’re capturing the data that I think you’re only going to get after long sales cycles in your CRM.
We’re in a tough position where the sales team receives very little help from product management and marketing on developing Value Propositions. What advice do you have for our sales team?
Peyton: It sounds like one of those classic cases where we have an alignment issue. What you’ll find in those kinds of situations are some salespeople, often presales-solutions-type consultants or sales engineers, start to do it themselves if they’re not getting it from marketing. What’s interesting about that being the primary source, is you’re usually drawing on the aptitude of members of the team who are both good at having the conversation and have the knowledge. The thing to capitalized on there is that they may have been building some great spreadsheets, but you want to get leverage out of those spreadsheets. So, some way to deploy those more widely. Getting some kind of win out of that on the sales side helps sales get more out of the marketing side.
Alright, last question. What if our company doesn’t have a marketing function, and we’ve only have one pricing person. How do we change the culture? How do we get the sales team started?
Peyton: Often it’s good to start at the top. It’s really interesting if you watch CEOs be interviewed on Wall Street. Some of the best CEOs get thrown the routine question by Wall Street analysts or a reporter which is, “okay, this new product you’re launching, what’s your value proposition?” And some of the best answers out there are the 30 second answers that are just sitting there. So the first thing I’d say is coming up with a good Value Proposition for a strategic product is not hard. It’s something that doesn’t necessarily take intensive market research. You could start with hypotheses and go to some good existing customers and validate your assumptions based on their experience. Whether or not you quote them by name, it’s the basis for a Value Proposition. Start with one good Value Proposition and get that used. I think the point is interesting because sales is often screaming for that piece of content that helps them through the quantitative and financial conversations. Generate that piece of content on one Value Proposition, and hopefully it instills this sense of benefit and you build on the success by finding resources wherever you can.