As sales people, do we ever feel that the messaging we get from marketing doesn’t quite have the punch that we need to have a really great sales conversation? If you’re from sales, the typical answer is YES! If you’re from marketing, the challenge and frustration is that the messaging is created after making sure it reflects the product or service accurately, takes industry trends into account, and can tell a strong, repeatable story.
So marketing keeps pushing the message via lots of content and sales tools, and sales keeps changing it up to find something that sticks.
Did you ever feel like you were trapped in your company’s value proposition and couldn’t get out?
Given that the majority of value propositions are primarily focused on communicating the features and benefits of the product or service, it’s no wonder that it feels like you’re trapped in there! I was a product manager for several years, graced with the “dog product line” of the company, or as I liked to call it, “the little product line that could.” It was a great experience – hard, frustrating, challenging – but it taught me two things that are very very important.
- The product’s features and benefits were not enough to convince our sales people that it was worth their time, and their customers’ time. (And yes, I did use the possessive “their” before the word customer.)
- The prospects and customers were more interested in how it would help them directly or solve their problems or issues – than they were in the newest features and benefits. Given this product was subscription-based, I had to sell both new, as well as drive renewal sales. Telling them what the product “is” wasn’t enough – they wanted to talk about what the product “does” for them – how it changes their business or improves their results, how it impacted them positively.
Turning the Value Proposition Outside-In
Needless to say, as a classically trained marketing person, I was focused on identifying likely targets for my product, crafting a message that I thought would interest them, and pushing it out there. My focus was on my product – first and foremost. I was looking at things purely from an inside-out approach and my value proposition and messaging clearly reflected that. I led with the product, talked about the product, pushed the product, sent samples of the product, talked to the sales people about the product, and on, and on, and on. I can tell you that “the little product line that could” was seriously huffing and puffing up the hill with this approach.
So I needed to figure out another way since the product line wasn’t growing, and it was getting harder to stay even. What didn’t I know that was potentially contributing to the challenge of selling this? I went individually to all of my audiences and asked them a key question:
Surprisingly enough, the answers from all three were almost the same.
Sales wanted to understand what challenge, goal or problem the product addressed, and be able to communicate how the product solved or addressed it – in customer language. Some examples of how other firms were using it would also help out a lot to paint the picture.
Prospects wanted to understand what challenge, goal or problem the product addressed, did it match up to their own needs, and how to use the product to accomplish it.
Customers wanted to understand how the product was still relevant to their needs, and if there were any upgrades or changes, how that would impact how they used the product currently.
The answer was that I had to take my product value proposition and turn it OUTSIDE-IN, creating one that entirely focused on the external point-of-view as it related to my target audience’s needs, experience, goals, challenges. By doing that, I met all of my three audiences’ requirements for a value proposition that actually was relevant and meant enough to them for consideration and evaluation of my offer. My salespeople gained an understanding of the product that dispelled a number of misconceptions about what the product could do, and how it was being used by happy customers. Their misconceptions were a clear barrier to taking the product on – and I wasn’t even aware of it up to that point!
At the end of the day – turning value propositions, and the sales messaging that goes with them, outside-in is all about buyer relevance. If you can develop a strong and clear message that is relevant to your buyer, it will also get your seller’s attention too. If you feel like your message isn’t getting the traction you want, consider going outside!
Want to find out more about what buyers need in value propositions to make them worth their consideration? Download the infographic HERE.