Posts tagged as:

value proposition

I just hosted a webinar introducing the second edition of my book, 42 Rules for Growing Enterprise Revenue: Practical Strategies for Increasing B2B Customer Relevance.

Watch the webinar to get a quick overview of 7 strategies for becoming more relevant to customers:

  • Selecting markets where you matter
  • Focusing on customer interactions rather than your org chart
  • Using context to define and articulate value
  • Collaborating with customers
  • Moving from products to solutions
  • Exploring vertical market alignment
  • Empowering your sales channels

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Ways to Matter More to Customers, Lilia Shirman from Laura on Vimeo.

 

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I sell to some really big companies.   One rule I established when I founded my business is that sales is about listening and collaborating, not presenting.  The reason was that I had watched cost of sales at many companies skyrocket due to huge investments preparing elaborate sales presentations that often fell flat and pursuing deals that should have been disqualified or re-framed early on.

Even with the best qualification questions and inside sales efforts, a sales rep walking into an initial customer meeting is going to have, at best, a superficial understanding of the customers’ need.  If they start by bulldozing through pre-prepared slides, they are likely to a) waste time on topics irrelevant to the customer b) miss the opportunity to gain a better understanding and c) fail to establish a collaborative relationship with the customer.

If you’re a marketer creating content and tools for a direct sales force, ask yourself if the information and asset you’re giving them help sales people to:

  1. Ask questions that both demonstrate their expertise and help them gain greater insight into customer needs
  2. Facilitate in-depth discussions that are positive and valuable experiences for customers
  3. Articulate how what they’re selling is directly relevant specific customer situations they discover during the meeting
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If individual employees have more power to select products and technologies, then should we market to them the same way we market to consumers?

Consumerization of corporate buying decisions is leaving B2B marketers asking if and how to use B2C techniques in B2B sales.    I like to break the question up into pieces, starting with messaging, then sales strategy, and finally marketing tactics.

What’s really different between messaging in B2B vs. B2C environments?

First, consider the similarities:

Everyone develops initial preference based on emotional response, whether they are making personal or business purchases.   So you must appeal to the individual and their personal priorities in both settings.

In B2B, recognize that business people often have unstated personal interests and decide how your sales strategy is going to address these.  To make this a repeatable sales practice, include an assessment of personal objectives for key stakeholders in your account planning process.  (Assumes you have one, but that’s a whole other topic.)

Now the big difference:

While the consumer might or might not bother to rationalize their decision, the business buyer almost always MUST demonstrate tangible (not just perceived) value to the company.  While you can rely exclusively on brand image and emotional response with consumers, you have to message to BOTH the emotional and rational considerations for business buyers.

If you’ve used B2C-style messaging for a B2B product, tell us how that worked.
More on this topic in our next post.

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I was thrilled to be a guest speaker on Linda Popky‘s Marketing Thought Leadership podcast series.

Pinda Popke The podcast topics include:
– The definition of customer context
– How to use every aspect of context in messaging
– The customer use case as a tool for articulating credible and provable value

Listen to the entire podcast, “Customer Relevance: Why Use Case-Driven Value™ Matters to Marketing”

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Better than "Please Don't Touch"

Pam Fox Rollin, Executive and Leadership Coach extroadinnaire,  shared this photo recently.   Its a perfect example of using insight about your audience’s complete context to make your message more relevant and notable.

The owners of this store didn’t just state what was important to them (i.e. “Don’t touch” or “Watch your children”)  They thought about what would make the request really stand out to busy parents.  They thought about the reality of the lives of those busy parents, and came up with great, catchy, and funny sign instead.

Are you thinking about your customers’ real life when you design your messages?

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Use-cases frame your value

by Lilia Shirman on June 30, 2009

in Sales Tips

I’m amazed how often I ask enterprise sales reps about how the product they just sold will be used, and they don’t know!

Understanding the use-case for your product is essential to making the sale.  If your sales reps can’t answer the following questions, then they don’t understand the customer and they can’t be relevant nor articulate your value and uniqueness.

Why is the customer purchasing?

What initiatives, objectives, or pressures is the company responding to via this and related purchases and actions?  What’s at stake for each participant in the purchase decision?

How will the product be used?

Which business processes will it be involved in? Who will the users be?  How will it change people’s day-to-day jobs?  What performance and business metrics will it impact? How will it change your customer’s customers’ experiences?

What’s the context?

What other systems, processes, and business areas will your product interact with? What else is going on within the company that will determine the value of what you’re selling?

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3 Musts of BtoB Messaging

by Lilia Shirman on June 26, 2009

in Marketing

Relevance – to your buyer’s context for making the purchase: company, industry, role, current business objectives and challenges, and personal interests.

Value – tangible, provable value that specifically and directly links what you’re selling to what the customer wants.  Value is the intersection of results you have proved you can deliver (according to existing customers), and the results the customer is looking for.

Uniqueness – Your secret sauce. That thing that only you can deliver, or for which you are known as the best or the vanguard.

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5 Ideas to Slice and Dice Your Market

by Lilia Shirman on April 3, 2009

in Customer relationships

Given that segmentation is the cornerstone of marketing, I am often surprised at how little of it B-to-B companies actually do.  Company size and geography are often the only criteria for segmentation, with industry being a distant third. There are other ways to slice and dice.  A few ideas:

1. Look at customer characteristics such as tolerance for risk, speed of technology adoption, core business driver (are they technology-driven, customer-driven, supply-chain driven, etc.)  – some may be much more likely to buy from you than others.

2. Separate customers with different levels of familiarity and experience with your company and products – your objectives and sales approach will be very different.

3. Split companies up by specific situations, business processes, or use-cases that are common to an industry or a business models.   The solutions and services you offer them will vary drastically.

4. Define audiences based on their roles and responsibilities within an organization or within the decision-making process.   Also consider segmenting by organization structure and culture – highly hierarchical, process-focused companies need a different sale then flat and agile organizations.

5. This seems painfully obvious, but then again, its rarely done:  Segment based on actual customer objectives.   This one is difficult and takes account-specific research to determine who fits where.  So we tend to just assume that all companies in an industry, experiencing the same pressures (you know, the slide that says “Increased competition, Decreasing customer loyalty / ease of switching, regulation and/or deregulation, growing complexity of IT environment..”) must have the same objectives.  But in fact, some are looking to get bought, some want to grow internationally, some want to raise revenue from existing customers, while other are focused on boosting profitability.

Most companies also under-utilize the insights that segmentation provies.  Next time we’ll explore the uses of segment characteristics in various parts of your organization.

Comment and share some innovative segmentation criteria you’ve seen used by BtoB companies.

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As a follow-up to the previous post, here are some practical differences to keep in mind when planning for solutions marketing.

Solution marketing differs from traditional product marketing.  This is a partial list, of course, but 7 is supposed to be a lucky number, right?

  1. Solutions marketers understand what motives customers to allocate budget within the broader context for a purchase
  2. Solutions marketing content is focused on the buyer and their objectives, not the product or its features
  3. Solutions-oriented value propositions focus in on specific use-cases or situations in which the customer is involved.
  4. The solutions marketing process and programs provide information or resources that are valuable to the customer
  5. Thought leadership and value creation are critical components of solutions marketing
  6. Solutions marketing activity often involves collaboration with other companies (see broader context in #1)
  7. To ensure that all of the above are truly relevant, current, and valuable to your audience, Solutions Marketing must engage the customer in conversation and dialogue at every available opportunity.

Speaking of dialogues, please add to the list with your comments!

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Companies used to selling products struggle to shift to “solution selling”.   There are lots of obstacles – product-oriented habits,  the never-ending argument of “what’s a solution, anyway?” (more on that in a future post), sales reluctance to adopt new techniques, etc.    Before we put the big strategy and sales kickoff program in place to “transform Sales”, however, lets first look upstream at marketing.

As any sales approach, solution selling starts with customer-relevant content, programs, and ultimately (we hope)  leads.  All supplied by marketing.   In this case, by Solution Marketing.   Understanding how its different from product marketing can pave the way to a smoother transition and solution selling success.

Solutions Marketing is about shifting your perspective and context. A solutions approach to marketing places your offerings within the context of the customers’ broader situation and needs.   It starts with the customer and their desired outcomes, instead of with you and your products. (Note – their objective is NOT to buy a product.)   Focusing on the customer’s broader context means solution marketing can encompass aspects of the customer’s needs that your own product or service may not solve.  The value prop IS the customer’s desired outcome, not your product’s superiority.

Let’s be really clear – “Solution Selling” and “Solution Marketing” are not the same as actually selling and marketing solutions. They are approaches to how your customers become aware of, learn about, interact with, and commit to your business. They don’t require that you actually offer a complete solution – only that you understand the role you play in helping customers achieve their objectives.

Ultimately, solutions marketing must support solution selling. That means giving sales reps and channel partners the knowledge and tools they need to carry the customer-centric view through the entire sales process and beyond.

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