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“Value" Remains Most Significant Sales Challenge

By September 25, 2011Article

Sales still remains  challenged to add value during the sales process, and prove the value of  proposed solutions to ever more empowered, skeptical and frugal executives,  this according to a significant study by Blue-Sky, a UK sales performance  consultancy.
The new independent survey of 212 sales executives worldwide, sought to  identify the biggest sales challenges and priorities facing Fortune 1000 firms  worldwide, and in the process, uncovered several significant challenges and great opportunities for improvement.
The value gap
First, these global sales executives indicated that there is a decided “value” gap between what customers want, and what sales is able to deliver. The survey responses indicated that the most important areas needing  development included:

  1. Identifying new ways to add value for the  customer
  2. Moving from “vendor” status to  become a trusted advisor
  3. Gaining access to executive decision makers
  4. Getting involved earlier in the customer’s decision making process

Transforming reps from information providers into “value creators”
Unfortunately, the  results indicate that the majority of sales professionals remain transactional focused, selling on feature/function and price, rather than having evolved to the value/outcome-focused approach expected by customers today. As one global sales director indicated, “Our sellers don’t have the financial acumen or the ability to go beyond a technical conversation and quantify the real business value, not just technical performance.”
This shortfall is amplified today in the face of Frugalnomics, a condition where buyers refuse to invest in proposed projects unless they know the project can deliver quantifiable bottom-line impacts, significant ROI and quick payback. Customer expectations have changed faster than sales has been able to evolve to meet the challenge.
Engage earlier and prove value
When asked what the biggest capability gaps were, the sales executives didn’t pull any punches, indicating that they need their sales professionals to engage sooner and more proactively with prospects, be more adept at economically justifying solutions and be able to better differentiate the unique value versus competitors.
The biggest sales capability gaps included:

  1. Getting involved earlier in the customer’s decision making process
  2. Influencing the RFP specification before it is issued
  3. Transforming reps from “information providers” into “value creators”
  4. Identifying new ways to add value for the customer
  5. Getting procurement to recognize our differentiation
  6. Building a financial case (ROI) for the decision maker

Paula Gildert, a procurement director for Novartis, can clearly categorize the inadequacy of many sales approaches, not unlike many buyers, challenging sales that “If you can’t quantify your value – don’t be surprised at the failure of the buyer to recognize it.”
The best practice approach
When asked what tactics needed to be prioritized in order to effectively address the challenges, the sales executives indicate that they most need to:

  1. Develop a “value calculator” tool to document actual value created
  2. Build a financial case (ROI) for the decision maker
  3. Use a “lifetime cost of ownership” sales strategy
  4. Influence the RFP specification before it is issued
  5. Transform reps from information providers into “value creators”

The bottom line
Sales executives recognize the challenges presented by Frugalnomics and today’s more-empowered, skeptical and frugal buyer, and are moving to address the challenges this new environment represents.
However, these is a significant capability gap, in getting sales to engage earlier in the buyer’s decision making process, justify proposed solutions and differentiate value.
In recognition, these executives are taking action, implementing new provocative, value-based sales methodologies and tools, including investing more in value/ROI calculators, and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) comparison tools to connect, engage and sell earlier and with an outcome-based approach.
The research results can be found in a presentation by Andrew Moorhouse of Blue-Sky. Click here for the presentation.
The research responses were collected online from 212 sales executives,  including participation from Cisco, IBM, UPS, Xerox, E&Y, CSC, Vodafone,  Hilton, Siemens and KPMG to name a few. A subsequent report will be issued after further interviews, to include interviews and best practices.
Additional research and best practice advice on how to address these value-selling issues can be found via the Fight  Frugalnomics Resource Center.
Tom Pisello is chairman and founder of Alinean, Inc.

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