Without clearly differentiated offerings your sales team will have to turn to price to separate you from the pack. And unfortunately, a price advantage can be difficult to sustain over time.
Creating a Value Proposition
According to sales and marketing expert Tom Gunderson, a lot of small to midsize companies struggle with articulating what he calls a strong value proposition. The “value prop” says Tom is a statement that helps explain what benefits your service or product provides and how you do it better than the other guys.
Value propositions can also extend beyond products or services to brands, says David Aaker, author of Building Strong Brands:
"A brand’s value proposition is a statement of the functional, emotional, and self-expressive benefits delivered by the brand that provide value to the customer. An effective value proposition should lead to a brand–customer relationship and drive purchase decisions."
Of course, with B2B brands and products, the benefits hew more toward the category of functional, not emotional or self-expressive. It’s difficult to get emotional about a commercial pressure washer.
But if your sales team can’t clearly explain how your company’s products and services differ from your competition, don’t blame it on Sales. Instead, according to Tom—who is also a Vistage chair—look at Marketing.
He sees many marketing departments that are too tactically focused. That is, enamored with publishing blog posts and creating new data sheets. Instead, Tom recommends marketing should be working from a strategic platform that includes a thorough analysis of your company’s buyers, their pain points and what they need to solve their problems. In short, your value proposition.
Sure, every company needs a stack of brochures to pass out at trade shows and white papers to help attract web leads, but it’s the marketing strategy (with your value proposition and cogent messaging) that fuels your sales force. “Marketing’s top priority should be arming the sales force with competitive messaging that differentiate your offerings,” Tom explains.
Set Your Sales Team Up For Success
With your marketing team working from a sound strategy and a detailed “script” articulating your company’s unique value proposition, you can now set your sales team up for success.
The biggest challenge for most companies shares Tom, is “Having the right people in the right seats.” He says some companies struggle in hiring the right sales people. They go awry by adding professionals who are either not a cultural fit for the company or who don’t have the right breadth and depth of experiences.
Companies can also go wrong with inadequate onboarding for new sales people. This is usually manifested in poor training and development. Finally, businesses can sometimes struggle with not providing its sales people with clear performance expectations, which can lead to stumbles down the road.
On the other hand, when you have the right sales people in the right seats and they are adequately trained and motivated, you’ll see results. Especially if your sales team is armed with compelling, differentiated benefits to share with your prospects.