As B2B selling gets more complex by the day, and buyers move through their purchasing process, on their own, until much later in the game, the need to make sure that sales people are well-prepared to deliver the value proposition to prospects has become even more important.
But have you considered HOW you plan to deliver it to your sales people?
Creating a value proposition that speaks directly to the needs of a buyer requires a lot of input, drafting and testing. Then we start the process of getting it to the buyers through our marketing channels. We work through how the value proposition will be communicated on the website, in product and sales collateral, and on social media. We embed it into presentation decks, and call scripts. It has to be integrated into all the marketing content.
Throughout my career, I have frequently seen value propositions simply thrown to sales people via marketing content, without enough thought of how to ensure that it is a meaningful and useful tool for sales. I have been one of those marketers in the past! In order for sales people to utilize the full strength of a value proposition, they must first understand and buy into it themselves. If you just throw the value prop at the sales team, it might come right back at you like a boomerang.
One of the most important jobs a sales person has day-to-day is communicating value to prospects and customers. It’s become significantly more important than focusing on just features and benefits. Why is that? Because most buyers already know those details – they have already been all over your website and downloaded product sheets, and white papers or other content assets that you have offered them. What buyers want from sales people now is a real conversation about value.
This means that the strategy of delivering a value proposition to sales requires thinking through the following questions:
Make Time for Input
As part of the initial gathering of information, research, and ideas for value prop development, reaching out to sales for their input is key. What are their thoughts on what to say, and how to say it? What value props of similar offerings do they hear out in the field? What are the biggest challenges or issues or complaints that prospects and customers are sharing with them?
Whenever I am working with a marketing team on this type of messaging, I always suggest that it is crucial to have sales be part of the development team. The typical response is “we will never get them to participate because it takes them out of the field.” They won’t have time, they won’t respond, they won’t cooperate. But I always push anyway, because of two important reasons.
First, they actually DO appreciate and respond to having their opinions asked. Nothing is more engaging than being asked your opinion. Most of us dive right into sharing it! Secondly, their input provides a critical part of what is needed to develop a customer-focused value prop – the real, feet-on-the street experience of dealing daily with prospects. And here is a bonus reason: you can prevent your value proposition from becoming a boomerang and your sales people making up their own because it doesn’t resonate strongly enough. Here’s what buyers think about your value propositions.
Test with Your Two Best Audiences
Before going live, it is really smart to test the value proposition message with two audiences who have a stake in what you’re trying to communicate. Start with your sales people. Hand pick a group of individuals from your sales team and ask to do a quick phone call with each of them. One-on-one conversations here can be valuable, and respects the sales person’s mobility. Send the content to them in advance, and then go over it with them on the phone. Ask for their impressions are of it. What works? What doesn’t make sense? What’s missing? How do you think a prospect or customer of yours might respond to this? What would you say? This may be an opportunity for an additional nugget that might make all the difference. At the very least, it gives you a clear view of what you will need to be aware of as you launch a new value proposition out into the market.
The second audience is your customers. Surprised that they are second? Here’s the thing: your sales people are a key channel for getting the product or service message out there. Make them first – because a value proposition does not sell itself – no matter how good it is. It must be communicated when it counts with a customer. For B2B companies – that most often is done by sales.
That having been said, reach out to 5 – 10 customers and ask them if you can run this by them to get their input. Make sure that at least 50% of them are customers with whom you have a strong relationship. For the other 50%, consider newer customers, and even a couple of customers who switched to another competitor. If you can get them to talk with you, their input is often enlightening, and can be very constructive, provided that you make it clear that you want to learn from them, not entreat them to come back.
Deliver a Value Proposition Toolset
The value proposition statement alone is often not enough to give a sales person what they really need to embed it into a sales conversation. A tag line or elevator speech is just a slice of what is required to drive a value-centered sales conversation. By mapping out the flow of the buyer journey, you can create a platform that puts all the pieces into one page to make it easy to use across all types of sales conversations, be they face -to-face, over the phone, or over the web. Here is a cheat sheet that covers all the bases a sales person may need to touch.
When you look at this cheat sheet, you might notice a crucial point: the Offer Statement is at the center, but it’s not enough on its own. If you’re smart, you will have a version of a value proposition for all your key markets. That means you need to be sure that your sales team is clear on the titles and the business issues that each market is composed of. There can be wide variations from one industry sector to the next for the very same product. Being able to clearly state the prospect objective IN the value prop is sure to get the buyer’s attention. It says that you are knowledgeable about their situation and their potential goals. It demonstrates that you “get” them – which is powerful for a sales person to convey. Here are some other great tips from Jill Konrath that really focus on value.
And finally, in order to deliver a true differentiator that has teeth, you should also provide a set of key value drivers – those values that most impact a buyer’s decision process. Follow that by quantifying the value in a meaningful way and then back it up with verifiable proof points. With this toolset, your salespeople will be completely prepared to deliver a consistent, impactful and customer-focused value proposition in any situation. This is how to really deliver a message that sells to your sales people first – and ensures that it will get to your prospects successfully.
LEARN MORE: ARE YOU SELLING YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION SHORT?
Lisa Dennis is president and founder of ValueProposition.expert and Knowledgence® Associates. She is an international marketing and sales consultant, trainer, writer and strategist. Her forte is in helping organizations develop and integrate customer-focused value propositions into the marketing and sales mix of B2B companies across a broad range of industries.