Why You Need to Move Beyond the Traditional Value Proposition
When you work to connect your products and services to your prospect’s needs, you need more than the traditional value proposition. You need an integrated collection of targeted messages that are informative, interesting and compel a sale.
This collection of messages allow your sales people to customize each message to every stage of the prospect’s decision making process paving the way for him or her to make a change. When you ask someone to buy, you’re asking them to change, whether it’s from the incumbent or the status quo.
In many cases, your company and others produce disconnected messages, and use less-than-optimal sales process. Whether message-maker or process-maker, one side normally leads with product which can only offer diminishing returns.
When you try to sell a new payroll and human resources system to a prospect who just successfully implemented another payroll service in the last six months, it is waste of time. Of course, you should have known that had you done your research.
It is also frustrating for the prospect when the salesperson doesn’t take the time to understand his situation. I see this in my training work all the time. The salesperson delivers sales messages addressing problems the prospect doesn’t even have. This disconnected messaging leaves the prospect with a lasting, negative impression of the salesperson and the organization.
A prospect’s journey toward a potential change begins with the initial recognition of a problem or challenge. From there, in his cognition state, he does an impact assessment. During that assessment he asks himself, “How big is the impact? Is this something we want to tackle now? If so, who within the company should be involved?”
During this phase the prospect is gathering lots of information on the problem, as well as possible solutions. And where is the easiest place to find that information? The Internet. Just Google any problem or challenge (not products or services) your company faces and you will gather more information than you can use. Some good and some bad, but that is how your prospect decides with whom to make contact. Fifty-seven percent of a prospect’s decision making process is completed before a salesman shows up, and this is why.
The mistake salespeople make at this stage is they show up and throw up, pitching solutions to problems they perceive the prospect faces. Your sales process needs to be aligned with the prospect’s buying or decision making process.
When you think of customer’s buying processes it’s easy to see in this initial stage that they are at the evaluate options phase.
The problem I find with traditional value propositions is they focus on the benefits and differentiation of products and services that positions the solution in a favorable light against the competition. These value propositions work well when the prospect is in the “selection phase” of their buying process, but have very little impact in the early stages of the prospect’s journey.
And if you don’t do well there, you won’t be part of the election process later. That’s why it is so important to meet the prospect when they are defining the situation and evaluation possible options. Then you can be part of helping them shape their vision for a solution.
Early stage contact during the awareness phase requires a different approach. As MHI Research Institute states, “The awareness phase requires a value hypothesis and value proposition focused on the customer’s unique situation. The implementation and adoption phase requires value confirmations at all levels of the buying community.”
These messages communicate the delivered value, thereby establishing a solid foundation for future business. The traditional value proposition created by most sales enablement teams fail to address the buying and implementation adoption process. According to the 2015 MHI Global study, on sales best practices, world-class sales organizations know why their customers buy. They spend the time selling to how customers want to buy.
Value Messaging Criteria
It takes a variety of relevant, connected criteria to impact value messages. Changes within one can impact all others. MHI Research Notes (contact us for a copy) give lots of details. Here is a high-level overview.
Customer’s (Prospect’s) Journey: The three main phases of the customer’s journey, awareness-buying-implementation & adoption, are the same for all buying situations. However, as we will discuss in a moment, their relevance and the required approach varies.
Customer’s (Prospect’s) Context: This criterion has environmental dimension defined by aspects such as the customer’s market or industry, as well as a situational dimension. Context also covers the problems the customer wants to solve or the challenges they want to master. Ask yourself, what are they trying to fix, accomplish or avoid.
Buyer Roles: These are all the impacted roles within the customer organization, as well as beyond—consultants, partners, outside advisors. Buyer roles can be defined in a number of ways such as function, level, success metrics and challenges. Together, these roles create the buying community. Messages are designed by sales enablement, based on these roles. When sales professionals customize value messages, they do so for specific buying influences.
Buyer’s Concepts: Each buyer will have a unique idea or concept of the best way to fix a problem, avoid a certain situation or accomplish a goal. It’s their vision for the ideal solution. One of the sales professional’s greatest challenges is to meld multiple concepts into one cohesive vision across the entire buying community.
Results and Wins: Results are measurable, tangible outcomes. Wins are the intangible goals the buying influences want to achieve. Sales professionals should seek to uncover these as early as possible in the customer’s (prospect’s) journey. Example: Mary, the company’s CFO, likes your solution as it reduces the company’s cost of its current solution by $400,000 each year and that improves the company’s P&L. That is the result. Her win is that by saving $400,000 per year, she not only looks good to her executive peers but the improvement in the bottom line has an effect on her annual bonus.
Decision Dynamics: Every customer makes every decision somewhat differently. Decision dynamics describes how the customer will make this decision across the entire community of Buying Influences.
These criteria establish the core design points for the dynamic value messages created by the sales enablement team. Ideally, these messages are designed in a modular way, allowing sales professionals to adjust and tailor messages easily. Value messages, integrated into interactive playbooks or content packages which follow the customer/client’s journey, allow sales professionals to access exactly what they need and the tools to apply the appropriate messages to the situation.
Do not simply build a message around a value proposition. Build a series of connected messages around each phase in the buyer process from research and awareness through value assessment. That will bring you to a higher level of customization and enhance the sale.
See you on the upside, Bill
Don’t forget to ask us for MHI Global Research Notes