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  • Writer's pictureNadav Efraty

Overview

As sales professionals we live for the wins. In many situations we must win or face consequences. While we don’t know many salespersons and leaders that don’t want to win, we certainly know many that don’t get the output they need. This handbook should be an insightful guide for anyone who is involved in running a value sales organization, arming the reader



with actionable strategies and playbooks for driving effective value sales at scale. So, let’s embark on this journey!

Since the dawn of commerce, sellers are trying to understand their buyers’ needs, present their offerings in the most valuable and differentiated way and charge as much as they reasonably can.


Historically, sellers were trained to focus on relationships, master their pitch and “Always Be Closing”. The accelerated growth of the technology sector since the 1990s with new players focused on disruption and displacement of incumbent providers gave rise to a new sales philosophy. Modern sellers learned that the key to changing the status quo of the buyers is not a certain flavor of donuts or an eloquent pitch. Buyers buy because of their needs and pains and their desire to succeed in their role.


Offerings have no inherent value - they are just tools; the real question is what the buyers are trying to achieve. The job of the seller is selling value, not features. Getting buyers to the realization that to be successful they must change the status quo in a certain way, but this is easier said than done. 


Buyers are used to maintaining their status quo and typically see it as good enough. They have ways of dealing with its known shortcomings and many of them are too busy sustaining it to have time to reconsider it. It is much easier and safer to maintain and incrementally improve the status quo than to leave the comfort zone, learn new things and deal with unknown challenges. 


Telling buyers that their status quo doesn’t work, that their efforts are futile and that they need to buy something to fix it is bound to drive an instinctive defensive reaction that will get them to justify and rationalize the status quo and their efforts. The way to get buyers to own the realization that they must change it is by leading them on a discovery journey that makes them reconsider their status quo and its implications in a new light under which they realize for themselves that a change must be made and that certain new capabilities must be acquired to get them to the future state that they are envisioning. 


In the last decade, buyers have become increasingly informed about their alternatives (at least 86% of them. Gartner, 2022). Often, the buyers are already considering or even committed to making the change well before meeting the seller. The job of the seller remains similar – leading the buyers on a discovery journey which should get them to the realization that in order to succeed in making the change, they must acquire certain capabilities. 

This discovery journey is the opposite of pitching an offering or leaving brochures and expecting the buyers to figure out for themselves how these offerings serve them. Every buyer has a specific situation which is a certain combination of role, duties and tasks, tools used, use cases, pains and needs, objectives, future desires, ways of thinking about impact, different stakeholders to consider and more. To drive the discovery journey for each buyer, the seller must understand all the relevant combinations better than the buyer, including the underlying root causes for the buyer’s pains and challenges. The seller should also master all the competitive alternatives including their pros and cons and implications in order to guide the buyer’s journey away from them. Finally, the seller must often master multiple offerings at that level. Even with great playbooks and enablement, mastering all of that requires significant domain expertise, intelligence and curiosity to really listen to and understand the buyers. 


Unfortunately, all the above is just the first step of the value sale process. After the tactical buyer commits to changing the status quo by acquiring certain capabilities, the executive level must approve the budget and resources. Now, stakeholders that don’t personally experience the tactical pains and that prioritize strategic initiatives and business impact over the tactical must reach the same conclusion.


For that, the seller must build the committed tactical buyer into a partner and champion. Together, the seller and the champion must continue the discovery journey to uncover the objectives of the various stakeholders and decision-makers, learn how they see the strategic alignment and how they measure business impact and success, and make them realize that the strategic impact they seek is directly linked to the same tactical capabilities, which happen to differentiate the seller from the competition. 


Since most of the internal buying discussions between the stakeholders happen without the seller in the room (only 17% of the entire buying time is spent in front of sellers. Gartner, 2020), the champion that is driven by tactical pains, who typically wouldn’t even know how to measure the business impact of the change (nor care about it in many cases), must be guided and armed by the seller in order to drive the discovery and win the business for the seller.


Guiding and arming the champion doesn’t end there - most champions are not experienced in driving corporate buying decisions with all the stakeholders, steps, complexity and pitfalls. It is thus the job of the seller to guide the champion in uncovering and driving the internal buying process. 


Champions are not the only ones who struggle to measure business impact or drive complex buying decisions. Many of the sellers themselves struggle as value sellers and most of them are not doing a great consistent job in building, guiding and arming the champions, qualifying or analyzing business impact. It gets even more complicated with channels and overlay sales. 

"The job of the seller is selling value, not features."

When done right, effective value sales execution highly improves the conversion rates (by making sellers and champions win more), increases the average sale value (by being able to justify and defend bigger deals and higher price points), shorten the sales cycle (by increasing buyers’ urgency and avoiding pitfalls) and improve forecasting. But doing it right at scale proves to be highly nontrivial and most sales organizations struggle to drive buyers’ urgency as they keep selling features rather than value and small tactical offerings to practitioners rather than enterprise deals to leaderships.


This handbook describes the latest strategies, best practices and insights pertaining to driving and managing effective value sales at scale.

We would appreciate your feedback, comments, insights, anecdotes and stories. Please write to us at the link below and we will be happy to add in select items and credit the contributors. 

We hope you find this insightful and valuable,


Nadav Efraty (Editor and chief contributor)



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