Monday, September 22, 2014

Your Unique Value: Solution Focused versus Challenge Centric?

With all the choices available to buyers, it is important to communicate how your solution is unique.

Many times, when organizations try to articulate the differentiating value of their solutions, they start with a “solutions first approach”, communicating each feature they perceive as a differentiator and the value these features might deliver.

What your marketing and sales enablement teams might not fully realize is that:
  • Product / service differentiators are fleeting, especially today where new product launches are faster than ever before and solutions are quickly commoditized. (SiriusDecisions).
  • A whopping 76% of the deals don’t go to the company that wins the competitive bake-off, where features make a difference, rather the win goes to the solution provider who engages early to help the buyer establish the buying agenda (Forrester).
  • The buyer doesn’t really care about your solution and how different you perceive it to be until they recognize they have a serious enough challenge to address, and that the challenge is a top priority. 

In order to navigate the decision making process, the buyer needs to understand “Why consider a change?” and “Why do so now?”, way before “Why your solution?” . Unfortunately, most marketing collateral and sales conversations start not with the buyer and their challenges, instead leading with how great the solution provider is and a vendor centric view of the proposed solution and differentiating features.

The Cost of a Solution Focused Approach
If you are taking a similar solution focused approach, you are probably engaging later and later in the decision making process. This is likely because your marketing content and sales conversations are solution centric, and resonate with prospects only when they already know they need a solution.

This solution focused approach means:
  • Lower win rates, because you are engaging well after the buyer or another solution provider has established the buying criteria and framed the decision in their favor. Research indicates that this is all too common, with nearly 2/3rds of the decision making process complete before sales reps are engaged (CEB).
  •  More stalled deals and longer sales cycles, because you are not engaging provocatively to help identify prospect’s issues and ignite the desire to change. Up to 58% of a typical pipeline is stalled at “Do Nothing” as a result.
  • More discounting, because your conversations are all about the solution, features and price. IDC indicates that discounts have grown to at least 20%, and we see many clients where 50% or higher discounts are the norm. Engage too late and price may be the only differentiator there is.  

A solution focused approach could be costing you big, as much as $30 million for every $50 million in quota.

A Challenge Centric Approach
What if you could find a better way to articulate your value, starting not with a solution focused approach, but a method that resonates much more with the prospect, igniting interest and accelerating the buying decision in your favor?

We recommend starting the conversation, not with how different your company and solutions are, but with the buyer’s challenges.

A challenge centric approach promotes collaboration with your buyer, a conversation, diagnostic assessment and analysis as to:

1.   The buyer’s challenges, aligned to each decision maker you engage with because each role has different issues that are most important to them (role centric challenges).

2.   The pain points these challenges are causing for each decision maker, identifying the specific key performance indicators (KPIs) affected and how these compare to peer benchmarks.

3.   The cost of “do nothing”, financially quantifying how the challenge has led to overspending, productivity losses, process inefficiencies, business risk or revenue shortfalls / lost opportunities (see the Value Map).

These challenges are not random, but focused specifically on those that your solution can best address – so that the conversation stays relevant to the ultimate goal – a solution sale. And to this point, the conversation doesn’t stop at the challenge.

Once the “cost of do nothing” is tallied personally for the prospect, and they understand the priority of addressing the challenge, the solution and differentiating features are presented – those specifically which can best help the buyer address each challenge. 

From the solution, key improvements are agreed upon and the tangible benefits tallied.

The key is to not present your solution and features too early.  You should wait until after you have helped the buyer realize they have an important enough challenge to address and that the challenge has a significant and tangible impact before discussing what makes you better and different.

At this point, the intersection of buyer challenges and solution differentiators, your unique value is personally communicated and quantified,

Using a challenge-centric approach, key questions the prospects requires to advance the decision making process will be answered in compelling and memorable fashion:
  • ·      Why consider a change? – Because you helped identify my current challenges and illuminated specific pain points that require attention
  • ·      Why do so now? – Because you helped me quantify that “do nothing” has a tangible and substantial cost, making the challenge a top priority
  • ·      Why your solution? – Because I understand how the differentiating features of your solution align with my top priority challenges, and you helped me quantify the savings / business benefits that you can deliver.

Content Development and a Challenge Centric Approach
If you want your marketing content and sales reps/ channel partners to speak to the unique value of your solution, content must be developed to help guide the engagement / conversation with a challenge centric approach.

As such, it is important that you formulate your content in a similar challenge centric fashion, taking an “outside in” approach, versus a more traditional self-centered tact.

The content that fuels prospect engagements and sales conversation should not be developed by first discussing how great the all the key solution features are. Instead, the content should be developed starting with the buyer, the specific challenges they face, and what “do nothing” is costing them every day.

In this manner, the most impactful value messaging, insights and justification can be formulated and leveraged as value-added marketing content and fuel for provocative and impactful sales conversations.

The Bottom Line
Sure there are unique features of your solution, but these tend to be short-lived advantages and more importantly, don’t matter to the buyer unless they have already decided on a solution. At this later stage in the decision making cycle, you are in the bake-off, where less than 1-in-4 decisions are won or lost, and likely you are discounting more than you should to win the deal regardless of differentiating features.

Instead, a challenge centric approach is required to earn earlier engagements and deliver the motivation / justification for the prospect to abandon the status quo and address their challenges head-on with your proposed solution.

The challenge centric content should be developed to first connect with each decision maker regarding the challenges they care about most, helping to identify specific pain points and quantifying the severity of the pain – the cost of “do nothing.”. Then, and only then, should the discussion advance to potential solutions, your unique features and the benefits that can be realized.

A challenge centric approach starts with the buyer’s point of view to assure that the decision maker cares about the challenge your solution can help resolve and benefits your unique solution can deliver. Most importantly, you prove you’re your solution addresses a real business issue that is costing them dearly.

The combination of challenge-centric discovery followed by unique solution benefits is the most effective way to prove your unique value - getting “do nothing” prospects to “yes” more quickly and with less discounting.

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