Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How can you CLOSE the Value Gap?

Today’s buyer is more empowered, skeptical and frugal than ever before – a condition called Frugalnomics. This new breed of buyer doesn’t care about when you were founded, how many customers you have, how quickly you are growing, your latest product release and new features. They want to know exactly how you can help them solve their particular challenges, and the bottom-line impact you can deliver. Today, it’s all about the Benjamins.

While at the same time, sales and marketing hasn’t evolved quickly enough to keep pace with a changed buyer.  Look at the typical PowerPoint deck or sit in on most sales calls and it’s all about the company, products, features and price and little about the prospect’s unique challenges and value potential. And you are not alone in your observations:
  • A meager 10% of buyers report that sales reps are value-focused, with most still using a less than effective product pitch approach (Forrester)
  • Solution provider executives report that the #1 issue for revenue growth shortfalls, is not a lack of adequate sales training, product mix or social selling skills, but the inability for sales to articulate value (SiriusDecisions).
This is the Value Gap - the current divide between buyer expectations versus a traditional sales and marketing approach, and it is having a serious impact on your revenue growth, with more stalled deals, longer sales cycles and more discounting.

If you want to address this challenge, the key is to evolve the customer conversation from product pitch to value. The good news, a simple conversation guide can be used to guide the evolution, and immediately help you improve your value articulation and sales effectiveness – helping you to CLOSE the Value Gap.

The CLOSE™ Conversation Guide is a storytelling technique, containing the right balance of Emotion – to make sure that your message is memorable and impactful – and Rational – to provide the financial justification so important in today’s committee based economic decisions.

The CLOSE Conversation Guide

The CLOSE Conversation Guide is a framework to help you formulate and arrange the five key elements of your value proposition so it can be effectively articulated, in the right order for proven best effect:
C – Challenge
L – Loss
O – Opportunity
S – Solution
E – Evidence.

The framework was designed to help you develop the right conversation elements and articulate the  value story elements in sequential order to communicate your value story.

Let’s take a look at each of the five elements of the CLOSE Conversation Guide and you will see how it can help you to develop and communicate your unique value story:

1) Challenge – What challenges can you help prospects tackle?
·      Help uncover challenges that the buyer may not realize they have or help the prospect understand the implications of known challenges that may not yet be a priority.

·      Illustrate the seriousness of the challenge with compelling commercial insights as to how prevalent the issue is, and what it costs an average company if the issue is ignored.

·      Communicate ways that the challenge typically manifests itself (at other customers you have worked with)– painting a picture of a day in the life under business as usual / status quo.

2) Loss – What are the challenges currently costing the prospect?
·      Quantify the specific “Cost of Do Nothing” for the prospect – exactly what maintaining business as usual / the status quo is costing the organization.

·      Tally the current “do nothing” costs as: 
o   Unnecessary expenses
o   Lost productivity / Inefficient or error prone processes
o   Potential risks and risk related losses
o   Lost revenue and growth opportunities

3) Opportunity – What is the value of addressing the challenge?
·      Communicate the potential business benefits of solving the issue outlined in the challenge.

·      Tally the impact to specific business metrics – value drivers.

·      Quantify the results of affecting the business metrics using the Value Map™:
o   Cost savings / avoidance
o   Improved productivity / business processes
o   Reduced risks
o   Improved revenue growth

4) Solution – What solution can deliver these business benefits?
·      Document the specific solutions, which can be used to address the particular prospect challenges and deliver the proposed business benefits.

·      Communicate the specific differentiating components of the solution and features, which can impact the value drivers and result in significant business benefits – proving how the value is uniquely delivered.

5) Evidence – How can I be assured that the proposed solution can deliver?
·      Validate how the proposed solutions have been successfully used by other prospects just like them, and the tangible business and personal value they achieved.

·      Quantify specific customer benefits, tallying specific KPI impacts, financial business benefits and ROI.

·      Filter the evidence by Industry, size and role to better resonate with prospects, so prospects know the benefits were achieved by prospects just like them, and via transference, can see themselves reaping similar business and personal rewards.

The CLOSE Conversation Guide can be used to improve all your customer conversation, applying the methodology to develop:
  • Provocative prospecting emails (using one line in the email to cover each element in CLOSE)
  • More impactful and personalized White papers and Infographics (using the elements of CLOSE to drive the elements and content)
  • High impact in-person / web meeting engagements (evolving from one size fits all PowerPoint product pitches, guiding the three-foot conversation to communicate the best value story for each prospect)

The Bottom-Line

Buyers have changed, making it vital to evolve your sales and marketing from a traditional product pitch to a value conversation. However, a substantial and costly Value Gap exists between buyer and seller - a conversation disconnect leading to more stalled deals, longer sales cycles and more discounting.

Developing and articulating your value story a certain way is key to this evolution and success, but how is this best value story formulated and delivered?

You can develop and deliver the most effective value story using the CLOSE Conversation Guide, a five step framework to connect with buyers on an Emotional AND Rational level – the key to fueling purchase decisions.

Challenge + Loss + Opportunity + Solution + Evidence = CLOSE the Value Gap: A more effective value conversation proven to ignite stalled deals, accelerate purchase decisions and reduce discounting.


Props to Dr. Thomas Sant who's NOSE methodology served as the foundation and inspiration for the evolution to a more provocative approach with CLOSE.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

50 Ways to Prove Your Value!

We've completed a great number of value marketing / selling campaigns and tools for industry leaders worldwide - 50+ of which we are featuring here in our customer showcase.

  • Value Sales / Consulting Tools - check
  • ROI / TCO Calculators - you betcha!
  • Diagnostic Assessment Tools - yes got em too

You can get some great ideas by seeing what other B2B sales and marketing leaders are doing, and examining these great value storytelling / insight / justification tools in action.

Checkout these tangible success stories / ideas for evolving your value marketing / selling capabilities - alinean.com/customershowcase 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How do you Develop and Communicate your Unique Business Benefits?

Are your sales and channel reps struggling to effectively communicate the unique value of your solutions to prospects?

If you answered “Yes”, you are not alone. While buyers are scrutinizing proposals with a keen eye on value / ROI, the average rep still reverts to a less than effective product centric sales pitch – focusing on your product, features and price vs. the buyer challenges and the differentiated value you can deliver in helping overcome these challenges.

The Value Gap – an inability for sales reps to effectively communicate value – is the top issue for B2B solution providers and indicated as such by a whopping 71% of execs in a recent SiriusDecisions survey. This is the 4th straight year that the Value Gap has been named as the top issue, making it an absolute imperative to put more time and effort into addressing this challenge.

In order to “Mind the Value Gap”, it is essential that marketing and sales develop and deliver the right value messaging and quantification – guiding sales reps to better articulate the benefits you can uniquely deliver, as well as personally quantifying what the "cost of do nothing" and benefits mean to individual prospects. One-size -fits-all value communications don’t cut it anymore.

More Effective Value Messaging, Communication and Quantification

So how do you develop effective value messaging and quantification that will be memorable and impactful on buyer purchase decisions AND are sales ready?

Unfortunately most value messaging development efforts take a decidedly product-centric view of the derived benefits vs. customer perspective, and most efforts flat out miss key benefits that are important to specific stakeholders.

Value Map™
It is important to have a framework to help your team derive the best differentiating benefits. One element of this framework is the Value Map, guiding the team to think about and categorize the benefits in customer-centric terms – around the challenges they are looking to solve and business benefits that are derived.

Benefit Categories?
We find that in most cases, the challenges and subsequent derived benefits can be grouped into four different categories of the Value Map:

1) Cost Savings / Avoidance – how your solution can help reduce specific  capital or operating expenses, or potentially avoid future purchases (not including labor or process related expenses).

Some examples:
·  Reduce a business expense, such as travel, telecommunication fees, printing or office space requirements
·  Reduce annual shipping costs
·  Cut the cost of goods sold (COGS)
·  Reduce inventory and carry costs
·  Consolidate several legacy solutions to eliminate annual maintenance and support agreements
·  Avoid a mandatory and expensive data center upgrade needed for the new fiscal year

2) Productivity / Process Improvements – how your solution can improve the productivity of specific workers, helping to reduce the time spent on inefficient tasks or decrease the skill level of resource required, or scale  and streamline a process workflow, helping to eliminate steps or errors while improving process effectiveness and efficiency.

Some examples:
·  Automate manual steps in a business process
·  Eliminate error handling in a business process and the lost productivity spent handling these errors / issues
·  Avoid wasted time users spend gaining access to business systems and data
·  Reduce the time it takes to setup and deliver an application test or production infrastructure.
·  Eliminate the number of escalated service desk calls
·  Reduce time to productivity for new hires
·  Reduce shipping errors and the customer service time required to reconcile the error.
·  Improving the change management process to reduce the percent of failed changes and the cost of failed changes and rework

3) Risk Avoidance – reducing or avoiding business risks, the chance that something bad will happen to the organization, and reducing the costs should the risk be realized.

Some examples:
·  Increase compliance with SLA’s and reduce non-performance penalties and late charges
·  Avoid corrective cost to repair damage to business reputation and recover operations as a result of a security breach
·  Improve agility to easily and quickly revoke specific user access rights to data, applications and assets to prevent unintended use or intentional abuse
·  Reduce the chances that the company will fail an audit or not complying with Sarbanes-Oxley internal controls or other  required compliance regulations.
·  Reduce the risks of legal fees, penalties and fines to address issues found in a failed compliance  audit
·  Reduce the risk of data theft and subsequent damage from record / IP disclosures
·  Reduce the chances for a system downtime event (outage)
·  Reduce the potential scope of the number of users, business processes and applications effected should a system outage occur.
·  Improving the ability to detect and resolve incidents proactively, which results in lower downtime to the business and higher availability of services

4) Revenue Growth – capturing revenue opportunities or avoiding potential revenue losses / challenges.

Some examples:
·   Reduce out-of-stock inventory and supplies when needed and the adverse effect on production, shipments and revenue recognition
·  Accelerate product design, development and test / certification for faster time to market Shift scarce resources from operations support to innovation and revenue generation
·  Reduce discounting
·  Accelerate sales cycles
·  Improve sales quota performance and new sales rep on boarding
·  Generate more better leads and sales opportunities
·  Improve competitive win rates
·  Reduce customer churn / losses

Organizing into relevant Quadrants?
To help the team align with buyer challenges and prioritize the communications of these benefits, each can be organized into quadrants by examining buyer’s typical perspective on the value that each category represents, on a scale measured by:

1) Strategic vs. Tactical Benefits – Strategic Benefits are usually aligned with creating and driving larger, longer-term business goals and what higher level executives tend to care more about, while more Tactical Benefits are aligned with executing specific improvement plans, and tend to relate more to practitioners.

Typically, Cost Savings and Risk Avoidance are more Tactical, while Productivity / Process Improvements and Revenue Growth are more Strategic.

2) Direct (hard) vs. Indirect (soft) Benefits – Direct (hard) Benefits tend to be derived from a straighter path from implementing the solution to deriving the savings / business benefit and more readily measured as a causal effect, while Indirect (soft) Benefits occur as a second / third order effect of the solution, with several non-direct steps from solution to derived benefits.

Typically, Cost Savings and Productivity / Process Improvements are more Direct (hard) Benefits, while Risk Avoidance and Revenue Growth are more Indirect (soft) Benefits.

Tailoring to Stakeholders?
To properly populate the benefits, the Value Map should be uniquely tailored for each of three potential stakeholders (or perhaps more based on who the decision makers are who are involved in evaluating and approving your proposals) – essentially creating multiple Map views, pivoting the value to articulate depending on which stakeholders are being engaged. The minimum set of stakeholders to consider include:

·     1) Technical – focused on the infrastructure / foundation needed to deliver solutions to the business, with an eye on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and cost savings, as well as risk (downtime, security, delivery)
·     2)  Business – focused on key business unit metrics for productivity and process, managing business risks (legal / compliance) and revenue growth.
·     3) Financial – an executive focus with an eye towards growing the business and revenue, and bottom-line impact.

With such a Value Map developed for your solution, with the proper value messaging and quantification tied to each, you can arm your sales / partner reps to deliver a more personalized and effective value conversation.

The Bottom Line

“Minding the Value Gap” is critical in making your sales reps and channel partners more effective.  Communicating the unique value of your solution relevant to each specific stakeholder is essential to differentiate you from competitors. 

In order to best capture this opportunity and increase revenue, we suggest that you review your current value messaging and identify the “white space” in the Value Map.  

Can your sales reps clearly articulate specific financial justification you deliver in each of the four quadrants of the Value Map: Cost Savings, Productivity / Process Improvements, Risk Avoidance andRevenue Growth? Complete the Value Map white space with simple but relevant quantification of your solution benefits in addressing stakeholder challenges .

You will gain significant advantage by using the Value Map to find the right differentiating benefits that cover the most important challenges for your buyer, addresses each stakeholders different value perspective, and uniquely makes your value more memorable and differentiated.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Several Experienced Value Experts Added to the Alinean Team

We are excited to announce the addition of several key Value Experts to the Alinean team, expanding our capability to deliver more effective value messaging, interactive tools and sales training for B2B solution providers.

Marc Salzman joins Alinean as VP Products, helping define and drive Value Matrix™ messaging services, the Alinean ValueStory® product roadmap, and development and launch of new Value Expert™ sales and channel partner training services. Before joining the Alinean team, Marc was a customer of Alinean’s at IBM, where he served as World-Wide Information Governance Strategy Consultant and Sales Lead. Prior to IBM, Marc ran Oracle’s Insight Program, an offering designed to demonstrate to clients the business value of Oracle’s technology solutions.
Ron Paxton joins Alinean as a Principal Analyst, working hand in hand with B2B sales and marketing leaders to develop highly effective value messaging, tools and training. In his new role with Alinean, Ron leverages his years of experience with Symantec, where he was most recently the Senior Manager for Global Sales and Marketing Operations and ran the Value Management Office (VMO). Ron also brings practical field experience from his successful sales / consulting roles with Symantec, IBM Global Services and Fujitsu / Amdahl.

Robert Hodge joins Alinean as VP, SMB Accounts, targeted to grow Alinean’s messaging, tools and training services within the small and medium sized market segment.  Robert brings extensive experience in business development with Brainshark and LexisNexis.
“Improving the ability for sales reps and channel partners to communicate and quantify unique value to prospects is a top issue for sales and marketing leaders,” says Tom Pisello, CEO and founder of Alinean. “Adding several key resources with practical hands-on experience provides our clients with the value messaging, interactive tools and sales training needed to address this top priority.
Click here to learn more about the growing Alinean team.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

CFOs are Large and in Charge of Tech Purchase Decisions?

CFOs are now more influential and more in charge over IT spending decisions, this according to a recent article from Baseline Magazine.

Studies by Gartner concur, revealing a 44% increase in CFO influence over IT purchase decisions. Over 41% of CFOs indicate that they are now the leader of the group responsible for IT investments and 26% of IT investments are directly authorized by CFOs (with only 5% by CIOs).

There are three key factors you should be aware of that are driving more CFO control:
  1. Disruptive - CFOs believe that disruptive technologies can drive growth, with CFOs involved in spending decisions for big data, cloud computing, mobile and social media as growth enablers.
  2. Risk – If you get technology wrong, it has a bigger impact on the business. Just ask Target about the impact of their security breach and its no wonder why CFOs are more involved.
  3. Frugalnomics - We are still operating in a “Do more with Less” economy, with the CFO assuring that precious investments like you are proposing are low risk / high reward and are perfectly aligned with realizing business objectives.

 For IT solution providers like you, the expanding influence of the CFO means that engagement is more difficult, involving more financially focused stakeholders with expanding influence and control.

With the CFO taking more control in setting technology strategy, it becomes essential for you to:
  1. Engage earlier with the CFO in order to help them recognize important challenges they should be addressing (Why Consider a Change), and the tangible impact of “do nothing” (Why do so Now)
  2. Speak the language of the CFO – business objectives, risks, business benefits and financial impact / ROI - developing provocative content to fuel CFO engagement sand sales conversations
  3. Deliver CFO-ready business cases to communicate the story of your value and quantify the investment versus benefits  / ROI.

 Are you ready to win in an environment where the CFO is more influential and in control of IT purchase decisions?
  • Is your content speaking to the CFO?
  • Are you arming your sales reps and channel with the provocative value messaging and quantification needed to gain early CFO access?
  • Do you proactively deliver CFO-ready business cases to gain CFO approval?

 If not, we should talk!


Sources:
CFOs are the New Technology Evangelists

Gartner Reports that CFOs are Large and in Charge

The CFO as Technology Evangelist

CFOs Alone Are Making 26% of IT Spending Decisions, Gartner Survey Finds