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Value Propositions Change Through The Sales Cycle

by David Brock on November 2nd, 2009

Too often, we tend to think of our value propositions as static.  Effective value propositions will change as we execute our sales process.

Value Proposition FunnelEarly on, as we are prospecting and early in the qualification process, the value proposition needs to be only compelling enough to capture the customer’s interest and to get them to consider your solution as an alternative to consider.  We don’t have to be differentiated, we don’t have to be superior, we only need to be good enough to be invited to the party.  The generic or segment focused value propositions developed by marketing are typically focused on performing this function.

Don’t be mistaken, these value propositions are important.  They need to focus on hot buttons and critical issues customers face, they need to be meaningful and compelling within the industry or the segment of customers we seek to interest in our solutions.  They have to be visible to those customers, attracting their interest and getting them to invite us to meet and discuss how we might help them.

Once the customer has qualified us, and we have likewise qualified them, the task for sales changes.  We have to learn what the customer seeks to do.  We have to understand their problems and challenges.  We have to learn what they seek to achieve.  Frankly, it is during this discovery process, that our “value” becomes most important. 

Customers don’t know how to buy.  Early in the buying process, and in our selling process, we create great value by helping them understand how to buy.  As Sharon Drew Morgen terms it, we become facilitators of their buying process.*

This is a critical element of our success and our value delivery that is too often overlooked by sales people.  We nominally identify their needs and rush to proposing a solution.  Facilitating their buying process creates great value and differentiation—since your competitors are probably not doing it.

As we move into the proposal and closing phases of the sales process, our value proposition must change.  We must move from the generic value proposition that got us in the door, to specific, concrete, and differentiated statements of what we can do for the customer.  Our value proposition must address the needs and priorities our customers have identified (each person involved in the decision).  It must be concrete, that is it must identify in quantifiable terms what the customer will get out of implementing our solution.  Finally, it must be differentiated (and superior) to all the alternatives the customer is considering.

Our work on our value proposition does not end once we’ve gotten the deal!  Now we have to deliver the value we have committed.  This is where the rubber meets the road, it impacts our reputation with the customer and our credibility as solution providers, overall. 

 *  Sharon Drew Morgen has written a great book on Buying Facilitation.  Get Dirty Little Secrets, it’s a valuable read.

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  1. Dave,

    I see a lot of resemblance in our thinking. With this link you can see the slides I used for a masterclass on this subject. A sequel is planned for November 10th
    considering the adaptation to key characteristics of the recipient.


    • Christian, thanks for your comment and the reference to the slides from your Masterclass. We are well aligned in our thinking!

  2. A sales process is a series of sales. Each sale has its set of sales related requirements, starting with the value proposition. Ex: during the cold call, the “sale” is a commitment or yes to meet. In order to get that sale, you have to have a value proposition worthy of the hour meeting you are asking for. Once you have a meeting, the next phase of the sales, access to the executives, willingness to do a trial etc. will also require a value proposition worthy of the next request. Once you run out of “value” game over. Whether it’s at the cold call stage or at the final decision.

    The key: don’t run out of value.

    Nice post David

    • Jim, thanks for the insight. At each step of the sales process, we have to earn the right to take the next step. As you point out, our value propositions—and the value we create in the interchange, are critical to building trust, differentiating solution. When we can no longer demonstrate superior value, we are out!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Your insights are always valuable. Regards Dave

  3. Shane Mooney permalink


    Great insights- I fully agree, the sales person must have a clear objective at each stage of the process, at the initial meeting it may be as simple as getting comittment to meeting for a cup of coffee.

    You continually refer in your blogs to listening to the customer, and understanding what their requirements are, not what you think they are. Sound advice- Too often the sales person will jump in and offer the solution they think is required, as opposed to fully understanding the customer, creating empathy, and truly meeting a need of theirs.

    • Shane, thanks for the thoughtful comments. It’s amazing how easy sales can become if we start where the customer is at, understanding what they need in their terms, rather inflicting them with a random walk through our features/functions and forcing them to decide if they produce value.

      Appreciate your views, keep visiting and commenting, it improves the quality of the discussion!

  4. Bob Ennamorato permalink

    Dave, in this day of multiple competitors and channels, I think what we have to make prospects aware of and interested in right from the start is that we are differentiated and superior. If that is not established early on we might never get “invited to the party” nor have a chance to present and develop our value proposition. A Top 50 Construction Company Director of Procurement recently said “the last thing in the world I need is more vendors and more salespeople knocking on my door.”. I think we need to establish our differentiation and superiority first, than work to show how those differences can be of value.

    • Bob, thanks for the insightful comment. I don’t disagree. However, I think the real problem is that too many marketing and sales professionals tend to view the value proposition as something that’s static. In reality it must be dynamic–becoming more refined and personalized, not only to the company you are selling to, but also to each person invovled in the sales process. Ultimately, we must present a unique, differentiated, relevant value proposition to each person invovled in the decisionmaking process. As early as we can start to differentiate ourselves is all that much better.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion, I really appreciate your views!

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