We know that one size does not fit all, in anything, ever. So, it stands to reason that if your value proposition is focused and aimed at one specific decision-maker or organizational role or business issue, you run the risk of distancing or even boring everyone else involved in the purchasing decision. A big risk, because their opinion counts! The most effective value propositions are those that anticipate the needs and concerns of all buying team participants.
I’ve done some research of B2B buyers in the technology realm, and found an array of business roles involved in purchasing decisions:
Technical Decision Maker
Business Decision Maker
Executive Decision Maker
Financial Decision Maker
The primary focus of the buyers broke down like this:
And, just to make it more interesting, we analyzed the decision-making styles of buyers:
This knowledge shines a light on the futility of a one-trick pony value prop. There are a number of varied interests and personalities involved in most purchasing decisions. You can’t go in there armed with only one focus.
Knowing is the Path to Relevance
If relevance to the buyer is the most critical element in a value proposition, we need to deeply know and understand the buyers. Our research told us that only two-thirds of value propositions were at all relevant to buyers, and at best the range of relevance they experienced topped at 70% with the lowest at 30% relevant! As both marketers and sellers, we have tremendous room for improvement here. Where else in terms of strategy or tactics can we find that scope of opportunity to gain an extraordinary advantage in the buying process?
The key to differentiation resides squarely in our ability to be as relevant to the buyer’s experience, needs, wants, challenges or objectives as we can.
This focus on relevance immediately differentiates you by default, as most of the competition will be too busy chattering about their own company and their own products and services, to the exclusion of their buyers. Think about it. That could be where you are right now with your own value proposition, right?
But if your company wants to make relevance the focus of your value messaging, you will have to dig very deep into learning about your buyers. You may think you already do, but are you sure you really know the market dynamics that are impacting their business – from their point of view?
Start from the beginning: Who Are Your Targets?
The brief review of the buyer demographics cited above should give us all pause. All these buyers, or people like them in other purchase scenarios, will make up the group of buyers for any big sale from your company. The research confirmed that they will demand relevance to their business issues. While there are themes and possible similarities across different industries and buyers, you and your team must discover exactly what YOUR buyers’ specific business issues are. Uncovering this foundational perspective will go a long way to helping you to explain your products and services in such a way that resonates with the buyers.
Let’s clarify everything that you’ll need to learn about the buyers before you begin to construct your value proposition:
Segmenting your market
We need to divide our broad targeted market into just those who have a common set of needs, priorities, and goals that we can address with our product or service. Identification of targeted sectors or industry or sub-industries is an important step in setting the stage for developing the value proposition. What are your primary sectors and industries? What segments within them do you target? Another way of looking at this is to ask, “Where are we going to aim our marketing and sales efforts?” We want to identify the best-fit targets that will be receptive and have a need for your offerings.
Here are key criteria for defining a market segment:
Titles of Decision-Makers
There are literally thousands of titles – and variations of titles. Focus on those titles that have issues, challenges, or goals that your offering can help address. Are there any core or specialty titles that are important to the decision-making process for your product or service? When you look at those titles, how much responsibility do you think that role holds? This will help you identify the decision maker(s), the influencers, and the users of your offer. Your sales team can help you here as well. Who do they call on? Who are the ultimate deciders? Who must not be left out of the sales conversation and purchase process? When you start to consider titles, here are the key areas consider:
Decision Roles Areas include:
The Influencer typically provides research, information, and opinions that contribute in a material way to the purchasing process. In mid-size and larger organizations, they are responsible for a large part of the information gathering needed to evaluate the product or service.
One more important consideration you need to make is when you include the Chief Executive Officer and / or the Chief Operating Officer, or the Chief Financial Officer – or any of the other “Chiefs” out there. In the case of the CEO or COO, think of them as being primarily focused on the larger business from both a strategic and operational point-of-view. They are guiding the overall direction across the company and may or may not be directly involved in your product or service purchase decision. So, don’t just arbitrarily add them – as messaging to them should have a much different focus than to lower titles in the company. Is the purchase decision about something that is significant to the overall direction of the organization? Is it part of the funding provided for a major strategic initiative? What is the size of the organizations that you are targeting? In small and medium sized businesses, they may be involved in many more of these decisions directly than in an enterprise company.
As far as the CFO, you can count on the fact that if your offering has a high-ticket value, he or she will definitely weigh in. But if not, you will need to plan for a senior financial person or budget holder to be a key influencer. The one that holds the purse strings can be a deal breaker – never underestimate that! You will need some financial positioning added to your core value proposition to take care of this.
Now you know WHERE and WHO you are aiming at. The next component is to identify the key business issues these buyers have that you want to address with your offering. Business issues include the following:
Generate a list for your selected decision makers. Then look at your influencer titles and think about whether there are additional issues specific to them that could come into play, or is there another aspect of the business issues that the influencers might have in mind? Remember, the trend for medium to larger businesses is to have multiple people as part of the buying team. Be sure to consider how that impacts the business issues you link to your value proposition.
Typically, you are not selling to a single buyer; you are selling to a multi-headed, multi-tenacled buying team. To build a successful value proposition, you need to identify each of those members and address their concerns in equal measure. Knowing their business and anticipating their concerns is half the battle to making the sale!
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.