B2B Sales Tip: It’s Never Too Early to Start Talking About Value

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Editor’s note: A version of this post originally appeared on Playboox’s Prepare to Win! Blog.

Research shows that best-in-class companies — top-performing firms in terms of quota attainment, average growth, and deal size — consistently implement value-based selling practices at a far higher rate than average.

Although the economy is improving, B2B buyers have become conditioned to be more austere. Plus, the buying process has gotten increasingly complex with more people involved in evaluating and making purchase decisions. With almost every deal getting closely scrutinized by the CFO office, value selling has evolved as a critical skill. To optimize the impact of value selling, it’s essential that your salespeople establish the basis for it very early in the sales process.

How to Succeed at Value Selling: Here’s How We Do It

Our salespeople are trained to on the second call with a qualified prospect to conduct a discussion around KPI’s that drive growth by sharing ones we’re seeing other sales leaders track and then asking the prospect questions like:

  • Which metrics are you MOST trying to improve to drive achievement of quota/growth targets?
  • Which of these are you tracking on your dashboards?
  • Are you bonused on any of these?
  • Which does your CEO most care about?
  • Have you established targets for any of these that you can share?

Once we understand these, we try to learn what’s getting in the way of where they are versus where they want to be for a given metric. We then ask what they have done or are doing to try to improve performance for that metric. In other words, what initiatives are underway or planned to drive improvement for the target metric.

Next, we dig a little deeper to get a sense for which stages of the sales process prove most challenging based on which stage-to-next-stage conversion rates are below expectation. Inevitably, we uncover an important opportunity for improvement we can impact.

Here’s How We Ensure We Do it Consistently

We provide a coaching tip in our sales playbook app that puts the metric-related questions front and center at the discover stage to make it easy for our salespeople to (consistently) conduct intelligent KPI discussions. We also make it easy for the salesperson to capture the prospect’s responses in our app to make sure metric questions are not just asked, but that responses are also captured, so the salesperson can refer to them throughout the sales process and set up the basis for a discussion regarding financial justification.

Documenting the key metrics the prospect cares about most and making it a core topic during deal reviews also sets up sales management to be able to coach their salespeople on how to best advance the opportunity.

Another important benefit of having a discussion around metrics early on is that it helps you better gauge the prospect’s motivation to change. If they have not yet given consideration to the potential economic impact of implementing your solution category, then, in all likelihood, a buying decision is not imminent.

Bottom Line: Zeroing in on Value Sooner is a Win-Win

Value selling is an important, but potentially difficult, skill to master. It doesn’t have to be. With a little training, consistent reinforcement, the right tools, and by making it an integral part of your sales process and deal reviews, your salespeople — including new-hires — can more successfully understand the value outcomes their prospects seek and demonstrate how your solution can get them there.

The sooner you start helping your reps conduct KPI improvement conversations and the sooner in the sales process they start doing so, the better for everyone concerned, including your prospects.

What are you doing to institutionalize value selling in your sales organization?

Image by Todd Shaffer

  • FearFearItself

    Daniel, why should sales people go through all the gyrations of trying to convince prospective buyers of the value of something in the beginning at all??… why not let the prospect sign up for a free, fully featured trial version of your product or service, and have the customer determine the value for themselves through their own trial?… wouldn’t the sales person be of better benefit to the sales process if he/she follows that trial customer as they try out specific features and benefits for themselves, and assist with additional information — and supportive value statements — based on what the customer is doing with the trial??

  • Dick Orlando

    B2B value selling is a tough topic to address and I commend you David for a great post. Starting the value selling discussion “early in the sales process” is the best tactic B2B reps can change today that will have immediate positive results. First, you’ll differentiate yourself from 90% of your competitors who still spend initial discussions speaking about their company and products, and not about customer value. Next, intelligently addressed value points will solicit discussion with the customer sooner in the sales process, and, today listening more to your busy B2B customer IS SELLING! Quantifying customer value in a manner that establishes your credibility early in the process, even if your examples are estimates, will establish you as someone who is experienced in caring about your customer’s business. For example, if your solution can save electrical costs, instead of just saying “our solution will save you 30% of your yearly electrical costs” and stopping (like your competitor), continue by saying, “and based on a monthly volume of XXXX kilowatt hours at a cost of $yy per KWH, our customers save an average $ZZZ (million) per year. What’s your monthly KWH usage?” David nailed it when mentioning a key is determining the customer’s “motivation to change” and quantifying value will tell you fast if you’re speaking to the right person. Nice post David!

  • FearFearItself

    Dick Orlando — all excellent points, which I too support, but things are different now.nnStudies support the fact that business buyers today are far more informed about you and your offering — and the value/ROI — long before they ever make contact with a sale person — thanks to the Internet. In fact, those same studies say business buyers are typically 90 percent ready to make a purchase before they ever make contact with sales. About 70 percent of business buying transactions today is done without involving sales at all — and this number is growing by the day — again, thanks to the Internet.nnI saw a recent study by McKinsey that shows how habits we pick up as consumers on the Internet are trickling down into what we expect from our B2B buying. Today, business buying is expected to be much like Netflix at home.nnOf course, there are many complex offerings in technology, and salespeople can, do, and will continue to play a role in determining value early in the sales cycle, among other important assistance to the buyer. And showing that you care about the customer will always score points. nnBut trends are clearly in favor of customers arming themselves these days with information from their own research, including pricing, customer reviews (both pro and con), and competitor offerings.

  • Marius Fermi

    Don’t forget that you’ve also got to deal with buyers who’ve done their research and basically shortlisted you when they get in contact. Chances are the value is already known but they’re interested in how you can directly align it to the business and their person goals.nnnThanks to social media, review websites and the general spectrum of online search, everything can be found out about you, your competitors and the overall services offered. nnnValue, at the start of the process, should be your focus but most importantly you should know what the buyers goals and headaches are, that’s where the true value can be found.

  • FearFearItself

    Great points Marius!nnAt the current rate, I think we probably will witness the day when sales as a standalone function disappears… and I predict this will happen in about 5 years. nnWhat will happen? Sales is morphing into something more akin to product development and customer service. nnHistorically, Sales evolved out of the era of mass manufacturing in the 19th and 20th centuries, when we produced millions of widgets that were all pretty much the same. Traditionally, Sales was all about pushing these largely generic products onto as many buyers as possible. Think Mad Men. Think Glen Garry Glen Ross. But things are quite different today.nnToday, we can produce products and services which can be highly customized to fit all kinds of different customer needs. And often the customization is built right into the technology itself; SaaS is excellent example of this, a product built on mass customization with the ability to customize the customer experience built-in. And I really need to emphasize *experience* because that’s what’s really being sold today, as far as what the customer expects.nnIf Sales has a chance for survival, it needs to serve to understand how this customization can help customers add value. nnSales can also serve important roles within a product design team to advocate for customers. Rapid iterative Scrum-type development methodologies are going to predominate pretty soon. nnSales has traditionally been the group most closely affiliated with the customer, most intimately familiar to what the customer experiences every day. This has to be the biggest thing going in its favor if Sales has a chance of survival into this new future, IMHO.