How can you tell if your sales team is “all in” with the value proposition that marketing has slaved over? Well, are they using it? Or are your sales reps throwing together presentations and asking for case studies at the 11th hour before a prospect or customer meeting? If so – you didn’t sell them! It’s also a strong sign that the value prop isn’t tuned for buyers. It’s a sign of a standard product or service focused message – which buyers aren’t buying into the way they used to. Businesses need a buyer-focused value proposition that is embedded in all of the company’s messaging, whether it’s presented verbally, digitally, visually, or in written form. Strong value propositions that engage the buyers’ attention are not easily or consistently improvised, regardless of how well your sales people can think on their feet.
It Takes a Team Brain
The creation of a great value proposition must be a team effort, requiring input from a variety of positions / viewpoints – consider including marketing, sales, product marketing, industry marketing, analyst relations and public relations. Who else in your organization has insights into your target buyers and the markets they are operating in? If you’re a smaller company and don’t have all those functions – you still need team input. So, make sure you have, at a minimum, a marketing person and a sales person, and a member of leadership in the room working along with you. Be prepared to do some homework up front on the markets and targets you are aiming for to make sure you get the “outside-in” view of the needs your offering is addressing. And then get ready for writing and re-writing and testing. Once you get to a final, tested version, get ready to integrate your message into all marketing collateral: website, email, social media, presentation slide decks, sales flyers, and call scripts. Provide sales people with conversational nuggets that they can use in their prospecting and meetings. The strength of a value proposition is only fully realized when it is used consistently and delivered confidently across all your communication channels.
What’s for Launch?
Are you done? Nope. There is a crucial step that often gets overlooked. Ready? Wait for it….your internal launch of the value proposition to all marketing, service, sales and delivery people - before you launch it externally to customers and prospects. Yup - the internal launch is where you sell the value prop to the key players in your organization who are prospect/customer facing and are responsible for carrying the message out of the building. This is not just a “reveal” – it needs to be a training on how/where/when to use the new messaging to conduct the right kind of conversations with your audience. It matters just as much to existing customers as it does to attracting and engaging prospects.
This seems like common sense, but the reality is that it’s a crucial, yet too-often overlooked, detail in the creation and utilization of the company’s value prop. You’ve got to make certain you have the understanding and buy-in of your sales team. Because if they don’t buy into it, they won’t use it. Or, they’ll try to pull pieces of it that they like and fill in the gaps with their own interpretation of the message. Having your business’ value prop message “hacked” by your own sales team because they weren’t bought in up front is a sure-fire way to fracture your message and confuse buyers. It’s an invitation for them to look elsewhere.
The sales process is no longer about focusing primarily on features and benefits. Don’t get me wrong – you will need them in the market and sales cycle. But today’s buyer is on a journey that is all about themselves – and they have already done the research, knows the stats, and have compared themselves with your competitors’ offerings. What today’s buyer really needs is an intelligent discussion on how this product will positively impact the issues that buyer is facing, now and going forward. This is your sales person’s job. So, the importance of getting value proposition buy-in from the sales team is key to making this all work.
Where to start
Start by understanding that the value proposition may have more meaning to sales people than you might initially think. By virtue of how most sales people are compensated, the full adoption of a new value prop is a major commitment to something that can impact their earnings. So, in their eyes, it better be good, or they’ll be inclined to just handle messaging on their own. After all, this is their living we’re talking about!
When creating the value prop, to what degree was the sales team urged to contribute their experiences? What supported tools have you provided for sales people to use in live conversations? Done correctly, the value proposition is something that is created with the sales team, not something bestowed upon them.
The combination of industry research that marketing compiles, with the anecdotal information that sales people regularly receive from the people they speak with, instills the right mixture of thought-leadership and street credibility in your value proposition. One without the other makes for a weak sales presentation.
A great value proposition statement is not enough -- on its own -- to help a sales person successfully navigate the entire sales journey. That is why your Value Proposition Platform™ must have a roadmap for the buyer’s journey. This should provide relevant content and messaging for every step of the way, aimed at each of the different titles / roles that your sales person will meet with, and the aspects of your offer that appeals to each of those people. These kinds of value prop support tools will go a long way in gaining the trust and enthusiasm of your sales team.
Do not overlook this part of value proposition development. Without the buy-in from your sales team, it will be difficult if not impossible to get buy-in from your customers.
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.