What is the no.1 reason why reps fail to make quota? One would think: poor quality of leads, inefficient follow up processes, or maybe just poor rep performance. But it’s none of these. Inability to articulate value in sales conversations is the culprit going by a SiriusDecisions survey of B2B sales managers.Customer needs

For sure, this inability to articulate value is not for want of literature: from Philip Kotler to Michael Lanning the expertise is boundless. So why does building a stellar, yet meaningful value proposition elude us marketers?

Is it that too many businesses offer me-too products that don’t really have a unique value to offer? Data shows that even organizations that build a value proposition do so without much testing, failing to resonate with customers.

Customer insight is of utmost importance in the era of well-educated, well-researched B2B buyers who expect sales folks to deliver value and insight, over and above what they can find online for free. When your reps fail to meet these heightened expectations you lose opportunities, creating a difficult selling environment. Forrester’s Q4 2012 Global Executive Buyer Insight Online Survey revealed a startling statistic: 74% of buyers say “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” after an initial meeting with a sales person. Don’t let your reps be hung out to dry; it’s after all marketing’s responsibility to create a winning message that sales can then deliver.

So how do you get started? Market research is a given so that you know the competition’s offerings and distinctions inside out. But more importantly, you need to connect with your sales folks and your customers. Find out how the sales team wins deals, how you are unique from your competitors, the buyers’ business problem that you can help resolve, and why customers choose you over competitors.

Conversations with sales folks can be revelatory, for instance you may discover a whole new buyer persona which you had hitherto overlooked. Customer conversations can give you a grasp of the customer lexicon which you must reuse in all your messaging.

SiriusDecisions put it succinctly in the Messaging Nautilus presented earlier this year at their annual summit in Orlando, naming five building blocks to craft a value proposition: Audience, Need, Assertion, Outcome, and Distinction. This helps keep in mind that your value proposition should be more about the customer and less about you; focus on the customer, their needs, assert what you can do for them, and what outcomes they can achieve.

CallidusCloud’s “lead to money” narrative revolves around the benefits sales and marketing customers can achieve from our unparalleled integrated suite of products that help transform leads into money, closing more deals, for more money, in record time. Our value proposition emerged from numerous customer conversations which repeatedly harped on the same pain points: disparate, manual systems with little or no seamless transfer of sales information, high error rates, multiple logins, and the lack of comprehensive real-time sales data and analysis.

Lastly, I suggest a little exercise. Try and describe your company’s value proposition in a paragraph, one sentence, and then in five words. This might seem taxing at first but it can do wonders for your elevator pitch and all your product marketing efforts. This worksheet from Marketing Experiments can help get you further along.

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