Value propositions. We know all about them, don’t we? Or do we? Let’s think for a moment about definitions. “Proposition” is defined in the dictionary as “a statement or assertion that expresses a judgment or opinion” or as a “scheme or plan of action, especially in a business context”. Interesting. While there’s a lot to be said for delivering subject matter expertise in enterprise selling, most would agree that listening to prospects is much more rewarding than “expressing judgments and opinions”. And regarding “schemes”, even the most transparent of us would be reticent to share with prospects that we’re “scheming” to win their business.
What about defining value propositions? Two popular definitions are “a statement of the combination of goods and services offered by a company in exchange for payment” and “an innovation, service or feature intended to make a product attractive to customers”. While definitions often tend to be rather antiseptic, these pedestrian views of value propositions really speak volumes about the real issue. For the definitions cast the prospect as the recipient, the target of the proposition. Ready, aim, fire. But the truth is that the prospect, or in enterprise selling, the prospect account, is not the target of the value proposition at all. In reality, the prospect is its very source.
Of course, there’s merit in the organizational messaging regarding the benefit that your products or services will ultimately deliver. But such messaging, which is typically heavily influenced by marketing or product development, must be refined and customized to be truly meaningful. Especially in enterprise selling, your ability to directly address the specific needs and pains of the account in your pursuit is a survival skill. Using boilerplate messaging in enterprise opportunities is a sure-fire recipe for failure, considering enterprise selling’s unique challenges like sophisticated competition and the significant investments required in pursuits. The stakes are high and while tools and processes are effective in helping streamline the effort in these pursuits, cutting corners with generic messaging simply doesn’t lead the way to the winner’s circle.
So how can you build and utilize customized value propositions for these significant and costly pursuits? And how can you do it practically and effectively without taking a sabbatical to craft each one?
It starts with a pragmatic account and opportunity-focused framework. And this framework has its roots way back in your market, territory and account planning where you aligned your organization’s strengths with your identified profile markets, verticals and accounts. Your bedrock work done in these stages positioned your organization and its products and services to pursue opportunities for which your likelihood of success is the greatest. These truly aligned opportunities, having survived informed Go/No-Go analyses, are fertile ground for these focused frameworks, these customized value propositions. And they provide guidance for the selling team throughout the pursuit and for the delivery team serving the account long after the win.
In Sandler Enterprise Selling, our enterprise value proposition’s framework has four parts:
What the product or service is that you are proposing. This is the specific solution that addresses the prospect account’s needs and pains. It may be a standard product or service from your portfolio of offerings or it may encompass multiple products and services including offerings from business partners, subcontractors or other third parties.
What the product or service actually does for the account. Of course, your solution will do different things and be utilized in different ways by different accounts. How it will be implemented by the specific prospect account must be clearly understood and taken into account in customized terms.
How your proposed solution will benefit the prospect account. This must be identified in customized terms that make a clear difference to the account. These are the concrete and specific results that the prospect account will gain from your solution – the customized advantage that will favorably result from your solution to the account’s identified needs and pains.
How the prospect account will measure the benefit of the solution. This represents the prospect account’s clear definition of success in the ultimate implementation of your solution after the business is won. How that success will be determined, in the account’s calibrated appraisal, must be clearly understood.
What it is, what it does, how it benefits and how it will be measured. This simple mantra drives your team throughout the pursuit, keeping the focus clearly on the account. All the work that may have been done prior by your organization’s marketing or product development teams is now in the past. At this point, it’s all about the account and the alignment of your solution to directly address its specific needs and pains.
Of course, the clarity of this simple value proposition framework depends on the quality of the work that your team has done in comprehensively understanding the specific needs and pains of the account and your ability to address them. That effort insures that you know the account, you understand the need and you’ve determined that the opportunity is a ”Go”. From that point, the what it is, what it does, how it benefits and how it’s measured serves as your guide.
While enterprise selling is complex, winning is often determined by the simple things. Utilize the simplicity and clarity of this framework and never forget that regarding value propositions, it’s not about you. It’s about the account.