Knowing the business impact of what you sell makes a huge difference. It's how your prospects decide whether or not your products or services are a match. Yet so many companies fail to quantify the business value of their products/services. And sometimes, it’s just not possible.
However, the lack of strong value proposition metrics doesn’t mean you’re doomed for failure.
I know. I was in the same situation. For years, my focus as a consultant was on jumpstarting new product sales. During that time, not one of my clients ever quantified my value. They were too busy and my new strategies seemed to work better than their old way. So they just kept hiring me.
So like many of you, I lacked good hard data. But I didn’t let that stop me from getting new clients. My prospects could see that I was a good fit for their organization.
Here are the strategies I used to help prospects feel confident working with me:
1. Talk Like a Businessperson
That's where you have to start. So, rather than giving exact figures or percentages (which was impossible), here’s what I emphasized in my prospecting and initial client conversations:
- Lag time between product launch and achieving projected sales results.
- Critical need to shorten time-to-revenue/profitability.
- High costs of sales rep downtime preparing presentations and proposals.
- Lost “windows of opportunity” enabling competitive inroads.
- Inconsistent messages being delivered to channel partners and customers.
These business-oriented value propositions were extremely attractive to senior marketing and sales leaders. As a result, I had a highly profitable consulting practice for years.
Whatever profession you’re in, it’s critical to talk about your work in business terminology. As a result of working with you, what are the outcomes? What business results are attained? They’re there! You just need to find them.
2. Use Industry Statistics
As I’ve already said, sometimes it’s difficult or nearly impossible to measure the value of what you do. If this happens to be your situation, another highly effective strategy is to piggyback off industry statistics.
The perspective of these "outside experts" gives you even more clout and credibility. For example, in the sales field, I could easily use these statistics:
- CSO Insights, a major sales research company, found that organizations with random or informal approaches to sales coaching had significantly lower quota attainment and win rates.
- According to Gartner, a leading business consultancy, discovered that customer improvement is the #1 factor for driving both customer retention and growth.
- Research by FSU showed that the top 10-15% of sellers used 3-4 different selling strategies while lower performers generally used just 1-2 approaches.
One of my friends is a consultant who does a lot of work for big companies in the area of teamwork. The statistic she uses is that "50% of a manager’s time is spent resolving people issues related to lack of trust and poor communications."
If you think about your business, I suspect you can come up with some statistics also. Again, they can be great proof sources of the need for your product or service in the market.
3. Engage New Customers in Measurement
Think about how you might demonstrate your value with your upcoming sales opportunities. For example, one savvy entrepreneur I know does this regularly. His specialty business development firm specializes in helping salespeople establish new clients.
Rather than talking about how fun his engagement system is, he focuses on the client's business objectives for lead generation. Early in the sales process he talks to buyers about what to measure and how they'll do it. Their metrics can be as simple as tracking:
- Who received the package
- If the seller got an appointment
- If a new sale was made
- The initial value of the sale, and
- The projected client value over time.
His customers immediately know if their investment was worthwhile. Plus the business metrics he gets can easily be leveraged as success stories for future sales efforts or as strong case studies that support his value proposition.
If you currently lack statistics, think about how you might engage your customers in creating measurement systems that are helpful to them and you. Your efforts in this area can have huge paybacks for you.
4. Capitalize on Collective Wisdom
Another way to clarify your value proposition is by brainstorming with your colleagues. The collective wisdom and experience of your peers provides a broad overview on the value of your offering from a customer's perspective.
Review your marketing materials. Reflect on what you know about your customers. Think about what you say that interests and excites them.
As a group, here are some questions you can discuss:
- What problems does our product, service or solution solve?
- What is the impact of these problems on other parts of the company?
- How does our product, service or solution impact our customer’s bottom line or expenses?
- What positive impact has our offering had on bringing additional revenue/business to our clients?
- Does our offering enable our customers to achieve a competitive advantage? If so, how?
- How does our offering impact our customer’s customer?
If your group is struggling to identify tangible results, challenge yourself to take the discussion to the next level. Keep asking each other, “So what?”
- So what if it’s an efficient system?
- So what if they have improved communication?
- So what if we cut turnaround time by 2 days?
Asking these questions over and over again, gets you much closer to the real value you bring to customers. Look for the impact your offering has on their organization. What financial effect do your products, systems or services have on the business?
Quantify, quantify, quantify. Where are the dollar savings? How can you measure the increased productivity? How have you increased sales? The more you can make your value proposition tangible, the easier it will be to get your foot in the door of big companies.
Determining your value proposition with only an internal analysis can be dangerous though. Outside validation by your customers is far more important. It doesn’t matter what your marketing department thinks is valuable. When it comes down to spending money, it’s only your customer’s perception that counts.
If you’re an independent professional, get a group of colleagues together and brainstorm each other’s business case. You need their perspectives to clarify your primary value proposition. You’re much too close to it to discover it without help.