Author Archives: knowledgence associates

Value Propositions Must Evolve With the Buyer

I read an interesting article the other day, called “How to Write Your Value Proposition.”value

This is good foundation information, but the buyer environment has undergone radical changes over the past 5 or 6 years.

The advent of the ‘hidden sales cycle’ (the stages of the buying process that buyers are conducting on their own, without sales people) have made the value of the  age-old value proposition formula become less and less effective.  Buyers are engaging with sales later and later in the process, getting to a short list of vendors before ever speaking to any one of them.  The pithy one sentence value proposition that is product or service focused does not work as well in that environment.

Rather than just delivering a description of the value your company brings to the buyer, we need to communicate the value the buyer seeks in achieving their goals or solving their challenge – in their language.   Buyer-centric, not product- or service-centric.  To engage the buyer in the hidden sales cycle, we must rely more and more on effective content marketing because the sales process is happening there without the sellers.  This results in an evolved value proposition creation process that fully feeds all the content needs.

We have been working with customers on developing their own value proposition playbook to deliver a messaging platform that feeds the content needs of buyers.   The game has changed – and the value proposition development process needs to move with it.

— Lisa Dennis

Listen Up, People!

Think you know who makes the best fit for a sales role?  Think again.

Just read a fascinating article  in Forbes  magazine that shakes up the age old notion that extroverts make better sales people.  As a sales trainer, one of the biggest challenges I see is getting people to learn to listen.  Many extroverts, including myself, probably wouldn’t score high if we were tested for our listening skills.  Why?  We’re too busy being extroverted (think, talking, laughing, telling stories, talking, jumping up and down, bubbling over with enthusiasm and confidence, and more talking).

Just last week I had a VP of Sales ask me to help his team learn to ask better questions.  “How are they at listening?” I asked.   He responded by telling me that if they asked the right questions the rest would take care of itself.

Well, frankly, nothing takes care of itself when it comes to communicating with customers and prospects.  Most sales people are planning their response, WHILE the prospect is speaking. So much for those listening skills.

Here is why the research is interesting:  between an extrovert and an introvert is someone who has both speaking AND listening skills.  They are flexible in being able to switch back and forth, which is much  more in tune with a prospect’s rhythm.  This type of person is an ambivert.  Even more interesting is the fact that in the study, the ambiverts had higher sales than extroverts, and that extroverts and introverts actually are extremes, whereas most of us fall in the middle.  The good news is – we’re all capable of being effective in sales.

Check out the research here, and let us know what you think.  We promise to shut up and let you talk!

Lisa Dennis

Making the Choice: Marketing and Sales Alignment or Buyer Alignment

Two Hour Workshop by Lisa Dennis, President, Knowledgence Associates, and co-author of 360 Degrees of the Customer:  Strategies & Tactics for Marketing, Sales and Service

AMA Marketing Workshop

In the quest for new and repeat customers, the marketing and sales professionals in your organization have been in a push-me, pull-me struggle to align their processes, tools, approach and philosophies to get better revenue traction.   This ongoing challenge is gaining in urgency given the increasing propensity of buyers to take over the early sales process and leave us out of it.  There is an alignment choice to be made here, but it isn’t really about aligning marketing and sales with each other.  The increasing demands of prospects and customers alike all point to the critical necessity of alignment with the buyer.  The real choice for marketing and sales is about whether to align from the inside-out, or from the outside-in.  The highest performing organizations align from the buyer-in and keep the focus on engagement.

This workshop will walk you through how to build a buyer relationship framework to drive alignment within your marketing and sales teams. This modular and customizable approach will provide the road map and steps to integrating marketing and sales across all the key areas that drive new business.

Topics include:

  • Charting the Buyer Journey in your Key Markets
  • Building the Relationship Framework & Stages
  • Redefining the Buying Cycle & Pipeline Process
  • Identifying & Delivering  Tools that Drive Internal Engagement
  • Charting the Buyer Alignment Course Forward

Business Tip: Don’t Annoy Your Customers!

angry businessmanI recently read an interesting article called 10 Surefire Ways To Annoy Your Customers.

As I reviewed each of the 10 ways, I was easily able to identify a company or two that fell into at least one category.  Some pretty prominent ones, too.

In the rush to get campaigns out there, and execute, execute, execute, these blunders get skipped, or not planned for.  Check them out – is YOUR organization inadvertently making your customers and prospects annoyed?

If so, cut it out!  Correct these errors now!  Don’t wait until you notice customer defections!

 

— Lisa Dennis

Leadership Interview with Dan Pink

Six New Pitches for the 21st Century

From Dan Pink‘s new book, To Sell is Human

6pitches-3

The World of Sales, Through Pink Colored Lenses

I first “met” Dan Pink via an article he wrote in Fast Company magazine, back in 1997, called Free Agent Nation.  Having just gone out on my own as an independent consultant, this article really resonated with me, on a number of levels.  Not the least of which was his estimate  that 25 million other Americans were doing the same thing – eschewing the normal 9-5-working-for-the-man routine.  I found both comfort and inspiration in Dan’s article.

Around that time, I was heading up the Boston chapter of Company of Friends, a networking group promoted by Fast Company magazine.   I was privileged to host Dan as a speaker on a couple of occasions, and soon realized that this man is a thinker and a visionary, who has a sharp eye for what is going on in the world of business.

Dan’s books and public speaking have inspired millions of people over the years, which is why I am excited to help him announce the publication of his new work, To Sell is Human.  This book is another example of Dan’s vision, this time applied to the sales arena.  Feel free to view the short video below.

To inspire interest in this book, Dan has some great pre-publication order give-aways, which you should read about here.  In order to get these goodies, you must order before December 30, 2012.  Do it.  Stay ahead of the game!

Full disclosure: I’m a member of the To Sell Is Human launch team and will be receiving the goodies above as well as the advance reading copy of the book and a signed copy of the hardcover. I’m not being paid for my review (good or bad) or receiving any other compensation. I’ve paid for all the other copies of Dan’s books that I own as well as those I’ve given away as gifts. In other words, I’m not in this for the freebies and accolades of the fawning masses but because I really like Dan’s books and ideas.

Lisa Dennis

Social Selling

One of the bigger challenges facing sales people these days is the fact that buyers are not connecting with sales people until later in the sales cycle.

Frankly, they can self-serve and don’t need us for education and awareness any more.  So what does that mean for us sales types?  Social Selling.

Check out this great article in Forbes.  

Most Effective Testing Methods for Value Propositions

Marketing Sherpa just republished a chart that outlined some research on how organizations test this key marketing asset.

One area that they overlooked entirely is testing by conducting live interviews with your existing customers about the value proposition.  This kind of conversation with customers can provide important information on what resonates, what is missing, what proof points are needed, how it is perceived comparatively with your competition, among other vital attributes. While online testing via landing pages, email, and other electronic options provides good data – nothing replaces live customer feedback.  In crafting messaging that brings the value proposition to life, a customer voice is essential.

Here’s the whole article.  What do you think?

 

— Lisa Dennis

The Value of Your Value Proposition

In a recent article I wrote called Time for a Value Proposition Reality Check, I discussed the three most common types of value propositions, including the most common, and least effective, type, which I designated as the “Me, Me, Me” version.  You know the kind…one that only talks about your own company and products.  Sadly enough, this is employed by businesses in the vast majority of cases. Why is it used so often, then?  Because it’s the easiest one to construct, which may not be the best reason for the choice.

So here we are.  You need to buy a product (or service), and I am trying to get you to buy mine.  You have choices.  You can buy my product, or you can buy my competitor’s product.  I want you to buy mine, so in order to get you to do so, I am going to tell you all the wonderful things I can think of about my product, and my company, and the outstanding people that I employ in order to create this great product that I want you to buy.

Now, how could you NOT want to buy my product?  You now know how great it is, because I told you so.  We can’t imagine anyone else having nearly as great a product, because they don’t have this great a company, and they can’t have the best people because I told you, WE have the best people.  So, how many of our products do you want, hmmm? While this may seem a bit sarcastic – the reality is that many value propositions do, in fact, include this type of pitch.

Obviously, the problem here is that it does not take into consideration any of the prospective customers’ needs, feelings, experiences, or knowledge.  We are not selling in the abstract here,  nor are we selling to Generic Customers.  We are selling to individuals, each as different as each of the “great people” we’ve employed.  Therefore, talking only about ourselves is not going to sell the product unless we related that greatness to what the prospective customer is seeking.  And in order to know what that is, we have to get to know the prospective customer, and see the world through his/her eyes.

The “Me, Me, Me” value proposition sees the world through the business’ eyes.  That works for a Friday afternoon internal company pep rally, but does very little to entice an educated customer.  This customer wants to know, given specific needs and particular circumstances, why this product is the right choice.  Everything else, frankly, is irrelevant.

Lisa Dennis

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