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Initiating the sales cycle with value selling will boost your success rate

60% of our B2B clients confirm that the first steps of the sales cycle (prospection and discovery) are the most difficult. They are also the ones with the lowest success rates. Instinctively, this situation is attributed to a poor definition of your persona or an inadequate pitch. At GROW, we have found that one of the main reasons is that the prospect does not measure quickly enough the actual value of the proposed product or service.

Benefits or features, what’s the difference?

Steve Jobs IPod
Launch of the iPod by Apple in 2001

Let's take a concrete example: on October 23rd, 2001, Steve Jobs announced the launch of the iPod in an highly competitive MP3 player market where each manufacturer was offering more and more memory: 3GB, 6GB, 10GB...

They all highlighted their main feature - memory - which they used as a differentiator.

Apple chose a different positioning and talked about "1,000 songs in your pocket!".

Consequently, Apple moved the consumer away from the memory - a feature which is a technical characteristic - to a benefit, a true and tangible value that fulfills the customers real need: listening to as many tunes as possible.

The consumer can therefore understand the value he will experience and can project himself in the product usage.

The result: more than 400 million iPods sold between 2001 and 2014...

More generally, it is the same with prospecting or with a sale’s negotiation:

The features are obviously important but, isolated, they are insufficient to quickly generate a substantial interest and a purchase decision. It's even more true when the product is very expensive.

Features belong to the present, benefits determine the future and often the value of the benefits is perceived too late by the prospect.

If you want to maximize your success rate, it is during the first contacts that the prospect must understand and appreciate the value of the offer. Let's see how to do so.

What determines value?

The value of an offer varies depending on your product or service, but also importantly on the context and the situation of the client.

Here are some examples of determinants:

  • Cost and/or time savings

  • Revenue growth

  • Sales efficiency (volume and/or conversion rate)

  • Risk management

  • Image and brand awareness (clients, recruitment, investors)

The key is to adopt an approach demonstrating that there will be a return on investment (ROI) for your client.

In practical terms, how to prioritize value over feature during your first meeting?

It is essential to follow four steps:

1. Prepare your first meeting well, i.e., seek to understand the client's issues using publicly available information (annual reports, internet, social networks...). At that point you will only have hypotheses, but they will allow you to be much more comfortable during your first interaction with the client.

2. Start your first meeting by asking open-ended questions ; these will be used to test your hypotheses and determine your prospects most pressing issues. Some examples of interesting questions:

  • What are your stakes/challenges this year?

  • What is your strategy for addressing these challenges?

  • If you had a magic wand, what would you do to solve them?

  • What will make you say at the end of the year "We've had a stellar year!" or what will make your boss or investors say "Tremendous, you've done a great job this year!"?

3. Rephrase your comprehension of the prospect's issues and get validation from him by asking closed questions. This will show that you understand him perfectly. It will allow you to start building a trust-based relationship and you will gain credibility for your upcoming pitch or demo.

4. Once you are at ease with your prospect’s challenges, highlight how your product or service will address them.

Couple this with an ROI driven approach by quantifying the value... and you have won! Your prospect will be engaged, the content of your exchanges will be much more substantial and your chances to sell a "big deal" will be much higher.

Of course, you can't do this exercise with everyone, it's important that you talk to the right person that knows the challenges and is able to answer your strategic questions. This is why value selling is mostly used with C-level and executives.

Yes, value selling is more demanding than the more traditional methods, but it generates vastly better results. A recent McKinsey study shows that companies that use this methodology (Solution Selling in this case) have a 1.5x more chance of becoming the best performers in their industry (By the numbers: What drives sales growth outperformance. McKinsey, April 2021).

Start selling the value!

Determining the real client value of a product or service is based, ahead of the sales cycle, on precise impact measures, and on a good appreciation of the specificities and decision-making process of the client. It is a challenging task that may seem tedious but omitting it can significantly reduce the efficiency of a sales team.

Sales reps and SDRs are often more comfortable talking about features than value. Experience shows that targeted and contextualized training sessions allow salespeople to get quickly equipped with the skills needed to prospect on value.

If you are interested in exploring this topic and learn more about our experiences, please contact us.

Alexandre Giry-Deloison, founder & CEO of GROW


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