In businesses around the globe, marketers are feverishly working on creating value propositions that positively impact the sales process. But how well have we equipped our sales people to deliver this messaging?
The creation of a value proposition that speaks directly to buyer needs is a cornerstone project, and requires a great deal of input, drafting, and testing. It’s a big deal, and once we are happy with our proposition, we typically focus on figuring out how to connect it with actual buyers. We craft all new messaging for the website, as well as the product and sales collateral, and social media. We embed it into presentation decks, online webinars, and call scripts. It’s really great, we think!
Of course, now we need to share this with sales! If the sales team is decentralized, this may mean tracking them down individually, or maybe getting a slice of time during a weekly sales conference call. But regardless of the location of the sales people, what marketing essentially says, “here, we did this for you, hope you use it.” It’s like tossing it over the fence, and hoping they catch and run with it.
Marketers spend vast amounts of time constructing their value propositions, but relatively little or no time ensuring that they become the meaningful and useful tools they were designed to be. Isn’t it Sales’ job to figure out how to use it? The thing is, in order for sales people to utilize the full power of a value proposition, first they must understand it, and buy into it themselves.
This is no slight or put-down of the sales team; far from it! We know that the most important job a sales person has day-to-day is communicating value to prospects and customers. What buyers really want is a real conversation about value. And so does Sales as well.
So, let’s rewind here. Let’s return to the start of your value proposition project. As part of the initial compilation of information, research, and ideas for value prop development, gathering input from sales is imperative. Without that input, your Value Proposition is more theoretical than realistic. Let’s get some realism.
- What are the sales people hearing from customers and prospects about their most important challenges and concerns?
- What are customers and prospects really saying about those issues?
- What sort of value propositions for similar offerings are they seeing in the field?
Unfortunately, far too often we simply assume that we’ll never be able to get the sales team to participate because any time spent on internal projects is time that takes them out of the field. We think, either they won’t have time to give their input, or they won’t respond (hoping the request for input will just go away), or they just won’t cooperate (in which case the marketers are back on their own). Hey, I didn’t say this was going to be easy, but I can assure you it is well worth the trouble!
Think of it as mining for gold. Go where the gold is. Do what you need to in order to get that input. That input provides a critical component of what is needed to develop a customer-focused value proposition: the real, feet-on-the street experience of dealing daily with prospective customers. Their likes, their dislikes, their language. This is your gold; it brings the whole value proposition together and makes it shine. Using the best input from your field sales (as well as from inside sales and customer service teams) provides authenticity and street-cred, and it allows us to frame our content in the language of the prospect and their industry.
Besides gaining relevant first-hand insights from the field, the fact that you are purposefully integrating real-world input from sales in the new value proposition dramatically increases your chances of having said value proposition taken in and utilized by the sales team! (Without sales input in the creation, I’d say the whole thing has a good chance of not being used properly — or at all — by the people it was meant to help.)
OK, now let’s fast-forward back to when you are just about to launch that new value proposition. But before going live with this baby, it is a smart practice to test the value proposition message with an audience who has a stake in what you’re trying to communicate, your sales team.
Hand pick a group of your sharpest sales people and request quick phone calls with each of them. One-on-one conversations are valuable as they encourage unfiltered communication, and they respect sales peoples’ mobility (as opposed to requesting in-person or written responses). Send content in advance and then review on the phone. What works? What’s missing? What doesn’t make sense? How would you say it? Even a few of these conversations will give you a clear and field-based view of what you need to know as you’re readying the launch. Along the way, you’ll often pick up some great conversational nuggets that can really help bring the value proposition to life.
No matter how strong your value proposition statement is, it’s rarely enough on its own to give sales people all they really need for effective, value-centered conversations. It doesn’t sell by itself. Your sales people, equipped with the proper tools, will address that.
Map out the buyer’s journey and the primary sales scenarios to guide you in defining the priorities for an integrated set of tools that sales needs in order to sell. These tool kits may include value prop materials adapted for a variety of key personas, industries, and stages in the purchase process. Cheat sheets that include industry insights, value drivers, approaches to value quantification, and verifiable proof points are especially important in supporting effective sales conversations. They help sales people demonstrate their understanding of the customer situation, appreciation of their requirements, and provide relevant examples and evidence to address customer concerns.
This all may seem like a lot to add when you’re rushing new offers to market. But trust me, it’s all essential in creating propositions that actually sell. Sell like you know what you’re doing!