Often, I speak of the value we create in the process. It’s the most overlooked, yet the most powerful and sustainable part of our Value Proposition/Value Creation.
We get a lot about Value Propositions wrong. To0 much is focused on the value our products or solutions create for the customer, or the value our companies and organizations bring to customers using our solutions. Too often, our value propositions are nothing more than glorified FABs (Features/Advantages/Benefits).
Take a few minutes right now. Go to your company’s web site and read about your “value proposition.” It may be in your About section, but it’s probably in your Products or Solutions sections. Then go the the sites of your 5 closest competitors and read theirs. Is there a difference–probably not. Virtually everyone talks about the same things, in pretty much the same terms, “We’ll make you bigger, better, faster, more productive, more efficient, more competitive, ……”
The tools and content we are supplied with are pretty much the same, all talking about what we think is important and creates value, rather than what the customer values. (To be fair, we are seeing some tools creating dynamic playbooks, dynamic content focused on what the customer values, not what we value, and business justification tools that take the value of our solutions, making them concrete and specific to the customer. However, these are just emerging and utilization is not widespread.)
Value is always defined by the customer, so we have to understand what customers value, focusing our proofs on those areas.
All of this is critical to our success in getting the customer to select our solutions and move forward. But even with this, we miss the largest part of “value.”
In reality, too often our solutions are just table stakes. What we miss is the real value we create–the value of the sales person. The value we “create in the process.” It’s the value we create, not only in providing insight, but in the process of taking that insight, tailoring and personalizing the insight in the Co-Creation process.
Brent Adamson and Matt Dixon in their Challenger Research cite customer loyalty statistics where 53% of why customers continue to buy is because of their experience in with the sales people. Only 47% is because of what we traditionally think of as our “value propositions,” (product/service, company reputation, price/value).
The process of how we engage the customer, how we work with them in solving their problems, how we tailor insight into something unique to them–helping them own it for themselves is the biggest part of the Value we create.
Our sales teams, the people we engage in helping the customer recognize the need to change and helping them solve their problems are the biggest part of what customers value and what sets us apart from everyone else.
Recognizing this causes one to pause. You have to think, why in the world would we leave the majority of what customers really value unexploited? Why do we continue to focus on our products and solutions, where they only count for 19% of why the customer might want to do business with us?
In complex B2B sales, our products, services, even our company reputations are table stakes. They may be a starting point (if the customer already is engaged in the buying process), they are what gets us considered in the first place, but it’s not the reason customers choose us!
The reason customers buy from us is the Insight, the value we create in the process, our ability to Co-Create! Or as Adamson and Dixon state, “How we sell is more important than what we sell.”
So what’s this mean in our “go to customer” strategies? Expertise on our products and solutions is critical, but assumed. We don’t even get to play without this. But now we need different skills, perhaps different organizational structures, different tools to effectively engage our customers in that 53% of the reason they buy. Sales people are the orchestrators and project managers of the whole opportunity engagement strategy. They get the right resources (whether it’s themselves or others) working on the right things with the right customer at the right time. The business acumen, deep functional, industry and application experience is critical to creating, delivering, and going in deep with insight. This is a team effort, no one person can to all this in complex applications. Change management, project management, collaboration all become critical elements in the process of helping the customer move from recognition to action to decision to implementation.
Tools, materials, and content need to be expanded to support value creation. Collaboration, sharing, project management tools. Business justification tools. Dynamic play books–not for sales but dynamic customer playbooks to help the customer through the process become critical. As a side note, I recently spoke to an executive implementing a brilliant strategy. They are providing tools that help the customer self navigate through much of this process. The customer can accomplish a huge amount on their own, leveraging sales or other resources only in specific parts of the process.
Over time, our strategies for developing and delivering new products and services have to change. Right now, they focus on the 43%—that’s critical, it’s what gets us in the door and creates the desire for the customer to work with us. But now we need to think, “In launching this product, what are we doing to address the other 53%, the value creation or the c0-creation part of the equation?”
The great thing about this is it transforms our relationships with customers. It focuses us on what’s most important to them. Over time, it transforms our companies–we can only execute on this if we put the customer at the center of everything we do. While not the focus of this article, there is the business side to this, what does this do to our cost of selling? What does it do to our cost of customer acquisition? What is the impact on overall organizational effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity? All this is fodder for another blog post, but the bottom line is, at worst it should be cost neutral, but most likely it should reduce our costs. The reason is, that now we are focusing everything around our total value proposition, creation, and delivery. We are stopping all those things we thought we should do, and focusing on maximizing our impact on the customer engagement process. But I’ll leave all that to later.