Editor’s note: today’s post is guest written by TOPO’s Bryan Gonzalez. It’s a timely topic: in research that CallidusCloud has just completed (and which we’re currently creating an analysis of), we discovered that both sales and marketing people said the biggest hindrance to sales was not lead quality, lead quantity or time consumed creating proposals (although those were major hindrances). By a wide margin, the number-one hindrance to sales was hard-to-understand value propositions and buyer messaging (33 percent overall, 34.62 percent for marketing and 31.63 percent for sales). The ability to articulate what you’re selling, and to make that description compelling, is the most basic tool in the sales rep’s toolkit – but too many reps don’t have it and don’t have leadership who’s committed to making sure they have it. Bryan wants you to have a great value prop – here’s his informed advice!
It’s as old as sales, the elevator pitch, but I am shocked at how frequently salespeople stumble through it. Every rambling cold call, every flustered kid at an event booth, every email that reads more like a novel – it all stems from the same inability to simply articulate what you sell and why it matters.
Why? Salespeople are becoming increasingly aware that the standard pitch isn’t cutting it. As buyers are increasingly inundated with emails and phone calls from vendors, they demand more value and more specificity from their buying experience, right off the bat. If you can’t state who you are and why they should buy from you specifically in your first sentence, nobody is going to entertain your offering for longer than it takes for them to hang up the phone or delete an email.
In the TOPO Q1 2014 Buying Process Research study, buyers told us their key factors to moving forward with a vendor early in the process. We found that buyers prefer that:
- The value prop is immediately deemed relevant to their business (vertical, peers).
- The value prop is easy to understand (two sentences is preferred).
- The sales person is engaging and passionate (high energy, believe in what you are saying).
- The sales person can engage in a valuable business conversation (don’t just pitch product).
With this data in mind, here is how I recommend sales people approach their value prop. First, let’s make sure we use the phrase “value proposition” or “value prop,” because today’s best salespeople aren’t “pitching,” we are delivering value. The difference, while subtle, is important. A pitch is typically self-serving and remains the same each time you deliver it. It also tends to devolve into a features-and-benefits sell: “Let me tell you about this really cool product! It does this and that and all these great things!”
A value proposition, by contrast, is buyer-centric and adaptable to each situation. “Our product has been helping companies like yours with value 1, 2, and 3, by doing X.”
Your value prop is the silver bullet in your sales arsenal. It anchors the conversation with your buyer, provides easily digestible insight into your offering, and most importantly establishes trust that you understand the customer enough to be the right partner to help them solve their pressing challenges.
Without further ado, here are my four simple rules to delivering a killer value prop:
1) Keep it short
Do not overwhelm your buyer with information. Keep your message short and to the point. I always run two exercises with the sales teams I work with: The “30-second value prop exercise” requires sales people to write out and then articulate their value prop in 30 seconds or less. The “two-sentence value prop exercise” requires sales people to cut that to two sentences (one, preferably).
I know you think it’s easy, but I promise you, it’s hard. I have seen CEOs struggle with this exercise. You want to paint the whole picture, and you can’t resist saying more than the buyer needs to hear. Run this exercise with your team and watch what happens. See how simple you can get it. Which leads me to my next point…
2) Cut the jargon
“We’re a next-gen, disruptive, cloud-based, sales optimizing, native CRM, doo-hickey, thing-a-ma-jig, that utilizes big data and predictive analytics to rapidly scale, integrate, and…” Please don’t do this. The buyer isn’t familiar with your solution. They have NO IDEA what you are talking about.
I used to work for an account management software company that helped account management teams drive more revenue from their existing customers by improving retention and identifying up-sell opportunities. But that’s not what I told my buyers. I said:
“We are a native-Salesforce customer success management software that uses predictive analytics and data science to optimize your customer lifetime value by aggregating and analyzing your data, and automating customer success workflow.”
I humbly submit that this is a perfect example of what not to do.
Cut the jargon, dumb it down, and yes, once again, make sure your mom can understand it. Now you are on your way.
3) Tailor your message.
Beyond telling a prospect what you do, tell them why you are the only person out there who can solve their unique needs. In the early stages of the buying cycle, the key differentiator is YOU. Buyers gravitate towards people they believe can be a trusted advisor. Especially in competitive environments, set yourself apart early, and tailor your messaging to the person you’re talking to. You should have a slightly different value prop for different verticals, market segments, etc. Show them you understand THEM.
4) Be energetic, be passionate.
If you don’t care, why should they? If you sell face-to-face, prospects pick up on your body language. On the phone, buyers respond to tonality and your message, in that order. Remember the old saying: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” In this buying environment, buyers are deciding how to prioritize their time. Who would you choose to spend time with? The passionate ball of energy or the self-centered, boring sales person?
Bryan Gonzalez is the Sales Development Analyst at TOPO. He has helped two high-growth companies launch their SDR teams and define the role and strategy. With TOPO, he is excited to help others design, build, and optimize their own sales development organizations to accelerate their growth. He has been an SDR, he knows the grind. Follow Bryan on Twitter.