In survey after survey, the average sales person’s inability to effectively communicate the value of their offering has been rated as the most frustrating challenge facing today’s CEOs and Heads of Sales.
They are right to be concerned. The statistics are truly horrible.
When Forrester talked to B2B buyers, they reported that only 1 in 10 sales people were effective at communicating value rather than simply pitching their solution. But simply getting smarter about articulating the value of your solution will not make this problem go away. Here’s why…
Before your prospect can be convinced about the value of your solution, they first need to be convinced that there is value in solving the problem, regardless of which approach they eventually choose to use.
The “do nothing” dilemma
The primary reason why so many apparently well qualified sales “opportunities” end up with the prospect deciding to do nothing is not that the sales person was unable to communicate the value of their solution - it’s that they were incapable of persuading the prospect that that the problem had to be solved in the first place.
There’s a simple rule at play here: where there is no impetus for change, the status quo will prevail. And given the inevitable risks associated with any form of change, the benefit cannot be marginal: the prospect must believe that the cost and consequences of sticking with the status quo are going to be far worse than the costs and risks associated with the implementation of a new solution.
So the first step in confronting the value gap must be to help the prospect to recognise that the worst thing they could do would be to do nothing. Rather than rushing to present their solution, the sales person must stick with the problem - even if the prospect is pressing for a proposal.
You’ve got to put a value on their problem before you put a value on your solution
Before moving forwards, effective B2B sales people know that time invested at this stage in fully exploring the issue and its implications will have a huge impact on their ability to determine whether the deal is real and whether they are in a position to win.
What are the costs and consequences of the issue? Who else is affected? How long has the prospect been suffering from it? How have they tried to address it, and with what results? Why is it imperative that they fix it now, and what would happen if they don’t?
You will probably want and need to help them. Some of the consequences may not be obvious to them. You can almost certainly introduce new dimensions and implications they were not originally obvious to them. You can help to amplify the pain of sticking with the status quo.
But if - with your help - they still can’t put a significant price on the pain, one of two things is likely: either the opportunity is not real, or the contact is not senior enough to know, in which case the sales person needs to navigate their way to someone who can provide the answers.
And if high-impact answers cannot be found to these critical questions, it’s probably time to politely and constructively qualify out, before a huge amount of everyone’s time is wasted pursuing what is likely to be an already-lost cause.
Positioning your unique value
The first phase in confronting the value gap is to value the problem. That enables you to judge whether the prospect regards the issue as a “must solve” problem, or simply a nice to have. It predicts whether they are likely to do anything. But it’s not enough.
Next you need to stretch the value gap by identifying the quantifiable incremental benefits that your solution offers over all the other ways in which the prospect might choose to solve the problem. Not just your obvious competitors - all the other options, including solving the problem “in house”.
This second, equally critical element of the value gap involves associating your approach and your unique capabilities with a set of measurable incremental benefits (= your unique value) that they would not be able to achieve in any other way.
This does not involve spouting the same hackneyed “unique value proposition” to every prospect: it demands that you tailor what you have learned about the prospect’s specific needs to an equally specific set of your capabilities.
A short, powerful list is much more effective and impactful than a long list of minor benefits. Your unique value must stand out in the context of their situation. The combination must be easy to explain and prove, and hard for any of the alternative options to claim.
Why change > why now > why you
The first half of the value gap calculation serves to answer why the prospect needs to change, and why change is urgent. The second half of the calculation highlights the incremental value gains to be had from your approach to solving the problem. The combination should be uniquely compelling.
If you are a CEO or sales leader, and have the same concerns as many of your peers regarding your sales people’s ability to create and communicate value, I suggest that you urgently review all your current opportunities and ask:
- Does the prospect recognise an obvious and compelling case for change, and
- Have we managed to articulate a unique and compelling case for our approach?
If the answer to either question is “we could do better”, you have work to do. But a systematic focus on value creation will have a dramatic payoff in terms of deal values, close rates and the early elimination of lost causes.
BTW, one of the ways in which you can increase your changes of working on the right deals is to target the right prospects in the first place. If you haven’t already done so, I'd like to suggest that you download our guide to identifying your key target organisations. And if you’d like to talk about how to more effectively confront the value gap, please drop me a line.