As you may remember, I am working with an innovative client that is launching a sales motion across four teams and twenty one people. We’re about two months in at this point, and the team has really mastered the mechanics of selling. It’s been a fun project. We’re making calls every day, training once a week, setting meetings and having great conversations, and they’ve really latched onto the process, which has given them some structure. It’s exciting to see and we’re keeping it really fun by having daily contests around activity and setting meetings, which keeps the energy level pretty high. However, last Friday I went around and was doing some individual spot checking on a couple of components of the sales process, and I sadly didn’t get the answers that I’d hoped for when speaking with each person.
You see, there are two tools in my toolkit that I always talk about—one being the concept of an ideal target profile, and the other being the concept of an enhanced customer value proposition. An ideal target profile really defines who your perfect client is that you should serve. It is the kind of clients that if you filled your portfolio with only them, you would need nothing else because they would enrich your bank account and you would enrich their lives and their business. It’s an expansive definition, and choosing the means of communicating who you serve really is a challenge for folks.
An enhanced customer value proposition is my way of getting individuals to articulate how they should be serving their ideal client. It forces people out of the traditional description of the services they provide or functions they perform and pushes them to define how they serve those that are their ideal targets by describing ways that they help them. So, by way of example, when I talk about my ideal target profile and customer value proposition, I say that my ideal target is the CEO of a company that makes between one and ten million dollars in revenue per year. This person is looking to make the leap from entrepreneurial selling to professional selling and is typically frustrated by one of a number of situations pertaining to the fact that they are reliant on inbound leads to close business, that there is a lack of visibility and transparency in the sales process, and that they fundamentally don’t have a plan or a process to scale the company.
Then when asked what I do for them, I don’t explain the nuts and bolts of my service. However, what I do say is that I serve individuals who are frustrated, and that I will help them gain clarity and insight on what their people are doing and how they can improve those results. It’s a very specific way of communicating, and the intent is not to explain or obfuscate what we do, but rather the to keep the conversation broad and open in the early stages of prospecting. We need to orient it around the needs of the prospect to convince them that we are somebody they should be talking to. Essentially, we are in their world because we have a service or a product that can help them.
The people I’m working with at this company were really falling short on customer value proposition, so we spent the last week working both individually and with the teams on improving these goals. It’s been a wonderful experience because this is a company that’s very successful and that has generated a lot of business, but there are two characteristics that, in my opinion, have really impeded their growth. One is they have consistently sold through an intermediary rather than directly to the end user, and the second is that both their internal and customer conversations all revolve around the services they provide rather than how they help others.
What this means is that in most cases they can clearly articulate the projects they’ve implemented, the mechanics of those projects, the features, the scope, the specifications, etc., but as soon as we start pressing past the mechanics of the project to what the desired outcome was for the end-user of this information, we get blank stares. Again, they’ve closed deals and they’ve sold business, but my position in my conversations with them has been focused on the fact that yes, you can generate business by selling a service you deliver that is not connected to the outcome, but it fundamentally relegates your service to a commodity offering and gives you very little leverage in negotiation. You end up with very little competitive differentiation vis-à-vis others who offer what you do, and probably most importantly it impedes what your highest responsibility as a salesperson should be, which is to serve your clients.
We’ve been digging into these things all week with the various groups. It’s been a wonderful experience picking their gaze up off the ground from the nuts, bolts, rocks and twigs that they normally focus on every day and really forcing them to think about what is it they can or do help their end users accomplish. I won’t get into all the boring details of helping them identify their customer value propositions, but we really made some breakthroughs and there were a lot of aha moments. It’s been rather interesting for these individuals to start thinking about themselves and their company not in terms of the services they provide, the functions they perform, or the people they staff on a project, but in terms of how their primary identification revolves around how all these details impact the ultimate end user, regardless of whether or not it’s their customer.
Hopefully this post is interesting, and more than anything I hope it challenges you to think about whatever product, service, or software your company provides to give yourself a pass from identifying with that as your core offering. I hope it entices you push the definition of what you deliver into terms that actually relate to how the end user will not only use your product and service, but what desired outcomes and future realities they will derive from those services or products.
By Townsend Wardlaw