In my previous post I introduced the three tests of a value proposition. In this post, I will share part of the journey we have taken at NewzSocial in our goal to find a value proposition that will resonate, differentiate and substantiate our offerings.
My definition of a value proposition is “a statement that describes the benefit a client receives from your product and/or service”. It must meet three tests:
1. Does it “resonate”? Prospects WANT / NEED what you are selling.
2. Does it “differentiate”? Prospects see you as the only vendor that can do what you do.
3. Does it “substantiate”? Prospects believe that you can do what you say.
If your value proposition meets two of the three tests, it will fail. It must meet ALL THREE for you to succeed.
At NewzSocial, we literally spent months discussing, debating and agonizing over what our value proposition was. It has been a real challenge. Today, we have a pretty good value proposition. I am certain it will continue to evolve and improve.
So what is this amazing value proposition you ask? Good question. The answer is:
“At NewzSocial, we help our clients scale and unify their outbound social
media campaigns to drive incremental awareness, engagement and traffic”.
How we came up with our value proposition.
Step 1: You must understand your target customers’ environment, issues, challenges, goals etc. You must have significant domain expertise.
Step 2: You must also understand what your offering does … and can do.
Step 3: Using words that your customer uses and understands, state the benefit of what you do.
We met with hundreds of people; interviewed them; listened; learned; struggled. We tried all sorts of variations and tested them on prospects. It was tough. It was painful. It helped !
This is where value proposition, sales execution and market realities collide. I will not be able to do justice to this explanation in just one post. This has been a real journey. I will share the one I have experienced here at NewzSocial as we now try to get sales traction with our offering.
Let’s break it down.
I have this rock star sales guy. This guy is amazing. He can prospect and get into almost any account. He leverages social media to the nth degree, is fearless, a hard worker and smart. He gets us into all sorts of Fortune 1000 accounts. As a startup, we have lots of dreams and aspirations. We have a healthy mix of egos, intellect and bravado as well. One of the things we are short on is time.
We spend a lot of time trying to get into big accounts, profile them and pitch our vision. We try to get to the right people but with the evolving role of the marketing department, we are not always getting the right audience in the room. This challenge continues today. We are getting better at it but often times we have to take what we can get and try to move from there.
When I hear the recommendation “you need to sell higher”, I want to puke. “Nooooo, I don’t want access to the CMO. I like selling low in the organization and getting arbitrarily eliminated from a sales process because an executive that never spoke to me does not understand what we do and how we are different.” Of course I need to try to get higher in the org. See my previous post title and insert at least one F-bomb.
When we first started to pitch NewzSocial almost a year ago, we were getting meetings but prospects were not actually sure what we did. We look back and laugh about that now. At the time, we really weren’t all that sure what our product did, what the market really needed and why. We spent several months figuring that out.
Once we got to the stage where we knew what we sold and what it did, it was easier to get people to say “I get it”. Some even said “I want it”. As we moved from “friendly” sales pitches with people we knew to cold accounts, things changed.
As we move forward on a number of Fortune 1000 sales processes we are learning. Each time we think we have mastered the value proposition, we get more objections. The journey starts with finding something that “resonates”. Getting prospects to say “I want that” took some time, some red-faced post sale reviews and some real soul searching. Slowly but surely we got through the “resonate” challenge. We figured out how to make our value proposition resonate by getting to know more prospects that were real thought leaders in marketing. They taught us a lot about their challenges, issues, goals etc. We read every analyst report we could get our hands on. We didn’t sell a lot. We learned a lot.
Once we mastered the “I want it” phase, we came to “differentiation”. While prospects were interested in knowing more about what we did and how we did it, they started to ask us about competitors and how we are different.
Typical objections we started to get were “how are you different from competitor #1”? What this meant was that our value proposition did not sufficiently differentiate. We fixed that by better understanding what our competition did and did not do versus what we did. We focused on “outbound” in our value proposition. That seemed to do the trick. Most of our competition (and the market) is focused on “listening” and not on driving outbound campaigns – at scale.
As I try to begin the process of creating a recurring revenue stream I am now encountering our biggest hurdle yet “…show me a case study where another company in our industry has dramatically improved their inbound leads with your system”.
So now we are at “substantiate”. Our first customers are true early adopters and friends that are willing to bet on our executive team. More to follow in my next post titled “We executed perfectly. How did we lose this deal?”
Today’s recommendation: Ask A VC: Storm Ventures’ Jason Lemkin On Inbound Vs. Outbound Enterprise Sales | TechCrunch
My Ask of you: What is the most common sales objection you get and why do you think you get that objection. Tell me how you handle it.
Would like to thank Rain Group for their incredibly valuable insights that I used to develop many of my posts. http://www.rainsalestraining.com/blog/how-to-use-a-value-proposition/.