Business Value Summit Interview – Getting The Most from your Business Value Program

A great group of product marketers, value consultants and ROI practitioners gathered in Santa Clara last week for the first ever Business Value Summit – West.

I had the opportunity to lead a Thought Leaders panel from the best business value solution providers, including our own, Mark Schlueter, who shared his great experience from decades of enterprise selling and team leadership at HPE, and business value tool development Microsoft, Intel, Dell and many other B2B firms.

Here’s some of our conversation:

Tell me a little about one of your favorite Business Value campaigns / programs you’ve developed and rolled out recently?
Recently I had the chance to work with Microsoft on a business value campaign and ROI tool for Window 10 Software Assurance and Enterprise.

The situation facing Microsoft was, that after a very successful Window 7, adoption and sales of Windows 8 and 8.1 were low and considered less than successful for the enterprise market. So, with the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft’s expectations were high, while many enterprises remained frugal and skeptical.

Even though Windows 10 offered great business value, enterprises were in no rush to upgrade.

For the enterprise, there are 2 versions of Windows 10: (1) Pro and (2) Enterprise with Software Assurance.  Initially, the upgrade to Window 10 Pro was free, however there is fee to upgrade to Windows 10 Enterprise with Software Assurance. Communicating the value of Windows 10 Enterprise, beyond a features discussion, is essential to justify the additional license fee.

To help make the business case, Alinean developed:
  1. A Windows 10 Enterprise Value Calculator for use by sales reps and partners in conversations with enterprise accounts
  2. A self-service Marketing Version of the Calculator, helping capture and deliver leads and more qualified opportunities into Microsoft’s Marketo instance
  3. Several ROI case studies (developed using the ROI Tool with accounts to validate ROI realization).
The campaign was a success, with 100 assessments delivered a month, fueling large enterprise migrations and software assurance licensing deals, and accelerating migrations by 6 months or so.

What’s the top challenge in delivering a successful Business Value program?
When developing a business value sales or marketing program, one of the greatest challenges I see is unnecessary complexity in the programs and tools.  As in most things in business and life - when there is a choice, simpler is better than complex in Business Value Programs.

I see unnecessary complexity revealed in several ways:

First and fundamental, is defining the value criteria. On one end of the spectrum is the seller’s perspective, rooted in product / service details. On the other end of the spectrum is the buyer’s perspective, heavily influenced by the key business issues and pain points they face.  Both are important, but the balance of value justification should be much more rooted in the buyer’s perspective.

Our clients our proud of their products and services – and rightly so.  Product marketers and sales specialists live and breathe their solutions every day. They are experts, and know the features and capabilities better than anyone on the planet.  Mistakenly, they sometimes conclude that conveying more details about the solution establishes better credibility in the eyes of buyers. That’s not the case and results in unnecessary complexity.

Buyers often don’t care, and instead want to know “What’s the Value for Me in addressing my high priority issues pain points?”, rather than delivering an endless features pitch about your solutions.

We find that often it takes someone from outside the company to help product marketers and sales specialists lose their product focused blinders and the complexity of the inside-out approach. Simplicity is rendered, not from the benefit of a complex set of solution features, but the value to buyers, from an outside- in customer perspective.

Second unnecessary complexity is a negative drag on tool adoption.  Sales reps and channel partners will resist using a complex business case / ROI tool with customers. And with today’s short attention spans, a complex self-service assessment or calculator will not be used by prospects.

Occam’s Razor, is a principle attributed to 14th century English philosopher William Occam.  The principle is “when you have two competing hypotheses’ that make the same predictions (in our case – business value), the simpler one is the better”.

Occam’s Razor applies to developing business value tools.  Simpler value messaging and calculations are just what the buyer ordered.

How do you best measure and assure Business Value program success with your clients?
At Alinean we conduct, customer success reviews with our clients, quarterly.  This is baked into every agreement as a deliverable, so we don’t leave it to chance.

To drive the success reviews, we work to understand success measures from clients and review the success against these goals to see if we are exceeding expectations, or perhaps falling short.

For marketing programs, measurement should track the number of leads captured, opportunities generated and conversions to deals.

For consulting and sales tools, measures in the beginning should track the number of registrants, analyses and report counts, to assure awareness and adoption, but quickly needs to move to move the needle KPIs, including win rate improvements (both a reduction in stalled deals and more competitive wins), sales cycle accelerations, average deals size improvements. Quota achievement and new hire effectiveness acceleration should also be tracked.

Moreover, to drive improvements, Alinean has developed the Five Pillars of Business Value Success, a set of best practices collected from the best BV sales and marketing programs, that teams can use to improve their programs.

The Five Pillars provide a systematic checklist the organization can use to drive success, and includes:
  1. Superior User Experience – Do your users love using your business value tool?  What changes, if any, should we make to improve the UX?
  2. Work stream Integration – Do your users know where to find your business value selling tools and when to use them?
  3. Education and Support – Do your users have the knowledge and skills to use the tools in their engagements effectively?
  4. Keep Current and Evolve – How up to date is information, messaging and data in your business value tool?
  5. Measurable Outcomes – Is your business value program delivering tangible results?

Give us an idea of what a successful Business Value program can actually achieve?
Let me talk about one of our customers that most of you know, ADP.

Many people think that ADP just does payroll.  However, ADP offers a wealth of human capital management (HCM) services to help clients build a better workforce. These services include human resources, talent management, benefits administration and more.

ADP wanted clients to see them as an integrated HCM provider. So, their sales teams were instructed to discuss and recommend the portfolio of HCM solutions, not just payroll. 

But just talking about the features of these solutions wasn’t enough, as approximately 60% of these newer portfolio deals stalled. When it came time to get a second meeting or advance the sales process, it just wasn’t happening at the rate ADP needed it to to achieve their growth goals.

To help ADP transition sales from pitching these new products to selling business value, ADP engaged Alinean to create a value­-based marketing and sales tool.
The interactive online tool was used by account managers, inside sales teams and even self service by customers to dynamically assess HCM challenges, recommend solutions to solve the most pressing issues, and quantify the potential business value of such improvements. A 10-page personalized assessment report was delivered to each client, to spark and accelerate decisions.

The Alinean-powered tools were very well received, and even won a Killer Content Award at the B2B Content Conference – great personal recognition for the ADP team members.  They accepted their award on stage at the conference in NYC.

And more importantly, the tool delivered on its goals with:
  • Over 300 analysis reports generated each month
  • Decreasing stalled deals from 60% to 30%
  • Over $1 million of new opportunities & $250k in closed deals in just the first 3 months from initial launch
  • $80 million in direct attributable margin contribution / year
  • Outstanding ROI of well over 1,000%

What do you see as a big trend in Business Value tools / programs over the next year or two?
One of the keys to success is integration of the Business Value tools and programs into the workflow of both marketing and sales. Getting this right is the most important aspect of success over the next couple of years.

With regard to Sales, what business application get the most use by sales reps?  CRM systems such as Salesforce.  It’s a critical application sales reps use to track and manage their deals. We see more companies integrating value selling tools into the CRM workflow, rather than it residing stand alone, as yet another tool. 

Integration in CRM is important, so reps can launch new value engagements / ROI analyses directly from accounts and opportunities, and have ready access to analyses for those accounts and opportunities.

As visibility to management often drives behavior, integration into CRM also helps sales management to know whether business value has been part of the deal, invaluable when it comes to pipeline validation.  After all, “Why is this sales rep forecasting this deal without a clear understanding of the economic benefits to the customer?”

Integration into Playbooks and Channel Portal can help as well, promoting the business value tools as content – at the right time and place in the selling process.

For Marketing, speed and knowledge is often the difference between a lead languishing, or moving more quickly to a deal. Leads are like avocado’s – they spoil if you let them sit too long.  So, when a self-service prospect shows interest by using your interactive assessment or value / ROI calculators, it is essential for the proper channel (direct sales, inside sales, a partner) to within minutes to follow-up with the lead.  This means capturing and sharing the lead in real time with your Marketing Automation platform such as Eloqua, Marketo or Pardot.

And the follow-up needs to be more than a shout out – “hey you visited our website, how can I help”.  With proper customer intelligence and workflow / MAP integration of the assessment or calculator, the rep or partner can promptly follow-up armed with a copy of the analysis report and key results that were delivered to the client. This results in a more informed and effective consultative, value-focused follow-up and conversation.

Join us in person at Business Value Summit – East on March 9th in Boston (adjacent to the IDC Directions event) -

You can join the group to stay connected and continue the conversation here:


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