Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Hey, Lets Do Value Selling

Over the past few months, a number of senior sales leaders have reached out for help, stating "we want to implement value selling."

They see value selling as a tool to unlock more value (revenue) or to improve their pipeline or to gain a competitive selling edge.

They are on the right path...value selling can certainly have a net positive impact on revenue, pipeline and competitiveness.

However, their perception of value selling and how it's implemented is a bit short sighted. Value selling is not a thing. You don't "implement value selling." 

Value Selling Is Not a Tool

First and foremost, value selling is not a tool; rather, it's a mindset. Value selling is a way of thinking about how to engage with customers and requires a broad organizational commitment to putting the customer first.

Value selling focuses on the customer's strategic business goals (not technology habits). It focuses on the firmagraphics (the culture) of the buying entity (first mover/late adopter, risk taker/risk adverse, etc). It considers the needs/wants/desires of the individual stakeholders and contributors to the buying process. Value selling requires a specific focus on the use of language to align with those entities.

As a result, value selling is not something easily boiled down to Step One, Step Two, Step Three...

Instead, a value selling approach should be baked into onboarding, selling preparation, communications, actions and activities. And it requires an organization-wide change management process.

Start With Opportunity and Account Planning

Opportunity planning and development, and its cousin, account planning, are great places to start. 

Traditional opportunity planning starts with a profile of the target customer (focusing on installed base and potential budget) and the questions "what can we sell them and how much share can we steal from a competitor?" As this approach is highly transactional and competitive, it leads to sales with low profitability and mediocre customer satisfaction ratings. Sound familiar?

Value centered opportunity planning also starts with a profile of the target customer, but with a focus on strategic business goals, the gaps between goals and capabilities and the motivations of the organization and the key stakeholders. Reps or teams consider how they can help the organization to achieve these goals, independent of any product or service offering (Solution development comes much later.)

Value selling involves co-creation with the customer, and in many, perhaps most cases, doesn't have much impact on existing vendor relationships. It tends to focus on net-new value creation, generating far larger impact and results than a simple vendor substitution might.

There's no comparison of vendors' TCO in value selling. It's just not relevant. That's pocket fluff in comparison to the impact true co-creation offers. Why focus on shaving 10% in operating costs if the project could lead to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction or manufacturing quality. Most of the senior executives, the decision makers in a strategic project, will focus on the latter.

The team must consider "are we well positioned to help the customer achieve their goals?"  Once the organizational goals are identified, the reps or teams develop an influence map that details the key stakeholders, the strength of the relationships, and an action plan to further develop those relationships.

Finally, the team develops powerful messaging that emphasizes alignment and ability of the team to help the organization achieve their strategic goals, and the ability of the individual stakeholders to meet their personal goals.

As with any strategic sales improvement project, the assistance of a knowledgeable sales enablement sherpa to provide direction and to carry the load is critical. If you don't get value selling right the first time, you won't get a second chance. Senior management...and the sales team...will move on to other shiny new objects.  




Thursday, May 25, 2023

Abandoning the Hero Sale

When companies first get started, the founders may do most or all of the selling. They have the vision, the passion, the depth of knowledge of the service or product and connect well with early adopters.

At some point the Hero Sale risks becoming the Hero Fail. The challenge is that as the business expands, the founders (the heros) need to focus on running the business, managing the growth, courting investors, hiring managers, etc., and they have less time for selling.

So...they hire sales people. 

And they expect sales people to act and perform in their image, with the same depth of knowledge, passion, and ability to connect with mainstream customers.

I've seen and experienced it first-hand.

When I sold predictive analytics to some of the largest tech companies in the industry, the company president and founder expected the sales team to leverage his 100 page slide go deep into the technical details of the what and how of the platform. Much of our sales training focused on this technical deep dive, and only lightly touched on personas and messaging.

Conversely, my mainstream customers were only interested in the benefits of leveraging the platform - could they increase pipeline velocity, improve pipeline size and shape,  bolster their customer acquisition rates, meet their quota and revenue targets. The decision makers didn't care what was under the hood, only whether it would bolster their marketing results and how difficult it would be to integrate the predictive analytics platform and workflow into their existing marketing processes.

IBM wasn't even interested in the platform...they had their own...they were interested in our curated third party data. And we discovered this not through a detailed review of the CEO's slide deck, but in an extended white boarding session focusing on work flows. (White boards are my favorite selling tools.)

In talking with clients I hear many facing this same the company grows, expected sales productivity fails to increase as experienced sales people are hired. And the founders question the new hires, the selection process, the target markets, everything but their own outsize influence in setting sales strategy.

Moving from a hero-driven revenue model to one that is sustainable and scalable requires a fundamental shift to a traditional selling model -- a formal selling methodology, selling processes, SFA and CRM platforms, formal onboarding activities. Dedicated sales managers will provide strong leverage for additional growth, particularly if a coaching methodology and mindset is part of the structure.

When I joined BAO, the outsourced inside sales organization, as its first sales leader, I implemented a formal selling methodology and spent a lot of time coaching my sales team on value selling techniques. Many had come from the delivery side of the organization and had been accustomed to a highly transactional sales approach...making up to 250 calls each day. The investment in time and effort paid off...we signed a number of key accounts that had been chased for fifteen years.

We also drove an increase in revenue of 75% over that first 18 month period.

Moving to this scalable selling model requires both support and patience from all of the key stakeholders. It won't happen all at once, and it does require a substantive shift in approach. The founders must step back and give the hired managers the space and time to do their job.

A formal approach to change management...and specifically...setting expectations with the key stakeholders will prove useful.

And maybe, just maybe, that hero can take their first vacation in four years.