One of the Account Managers I've been working with contacted me to help him get ready for an online call he has planned with one of his strategic accounts. He recently introduced a new product to them. They like it, they think they want it, but have some questions. He claims his biggest struggle as he prepares to present to them, is on that slide in his presentation where he talks about the value proposition that comes along with this new product.
I asked him: “What is their value proposition?” and he replied with: ”you mean OUR value proposition right?”. I said: “No. THEIR value proposition”.
“What does it matter what THEIR value proposition is? I am the one selling to them and not the other way around” he blurs.
“OK…” I played along. “Let me rephrase my question. What are the values in your proposition to them?”
“Well, all data in one place, time savings for the sales team which will lead to some actual financial ROI”
“And the folks who will be attending this call, do they care about this value proposition?”
“Well, I don’t know” he said. “Moreover” I pushed further, “what if one of your buyers couldn’t care less about one or all of these values in your proposition?”
Me: “You should not sell what you came to sell. Sell what they want to buy.”
A solid definition of a value proposition (this one by HubSpot) is:
“A value proposition is a short statement that communicates why buyers should choose your products or services. It’s more than just a product or service description — it's the specific solution that your business provides and the promise of value that a customer can expect you to deliver.”
Let’s focus for a second on the words – “why buyers should choose YOUR product”. Well, if it is relevant to THEM, if it solves a problem THEY are struggling with and if it assists THEM with achieving whatever it is THEY want to achieve then THEY will choose your product. So even though it is a value proposition you bring to the table, it should reflect what matters to THEM.
“Well, in this case, once I find out what ticks each of them, I will have like 4 different value propositions” he then commented and continued…”So how many value propositions could I have?”.
In this upcoming online call, our Account Manager told me there will be 4 attendees from the client’s side: two IT managers, a Project Manager, and a Director of Sales Operation.
Do you want to tell me that all of them will benefit the same way from your product? Of course not!
This means that your value proposition to them must include elements that benefit all of their needs or at least the top need or benefit or….value each of them has for….you guessed it…them. And if it means multiple propositions, so be it.
IT usually serves the business and the operation of the company. For them, the biggest thing most likely is the technical challenges, potential security risks and how much time implementing this new product might take. Moreover, they probably don’t care about the time saving and financial ROI you offer in your initial value proposition.
The Sales Operations Manager cares about the performance of the sales team. Do you know how the sales team performance is being measured? Do you know how the Sales Operations Manager’s performance is being measured? Did you ask?
The Project Managers' main concern is that the project goes smoothly. They need to make sure they understand what is expected of them, that you are both aligned on the timeline for this project and that they have someone on your team working alongside them.
“Did you invite the person who is going to manage this project from your side to this meeting?”
“No” he replied.
“And do you think their project manager will choose your product because of the fact that all data is in one place or because your product saves time to the sales team? No. The Project Manager will choose your product when they speak the same language with your Project Manager, when they realize you are aware of THEIR needs to complete this project within THEIR time constraints (as they have three other projects they are overseeing) and when you show them the support you lined up for this project in case you know what hits the fan. So, in essence, the Project Manager’s value proposition is something like: Omni channel, 24/7 dedicated support throughout the project so I do not need to worry. "Can you sell that?” I asked?
“Of course!” he jumped. “We do actually have 24/7 support and I know this client works on the same project management software we use so we do speak the same language”.
“There you have it” I replied.
“OK, I think I got it. Can you summarize it for me in a few short steps?” He requested.
So here it is:
Find out first what matters to them. Research, speak with them, ask colleagues. Do whatever you need to figure out what are their challenges, ambitions, goals etc. Understand that the answers to what matters to them will give you all the insight you need to craft the relevant Value Proposition.
Do not assume your company’s Value Proposition means much to them
Think of it as THEIR Value Proposition as they think about what you offer them.
Create multiple Value Propositions and use them across your presentation/conversation with them, highlighting the relevant value to the relevant buyer.
“Consistent alignment of capabilities and internal processes with the customer value proposition is the core of any strategy execution.” Robert S. Kaplan
A former boss once told me - All the answers are out there with the customer.
And as for the question how many value propositions there could be?
The answer is – as many value propositions as there are buyers and influencers.