An Open Letter to CEOs

Joe Sexton

“Customer Value Management is the cornerstone of CrowdStrike’s engagement with our prospects and customers. We believe great customer engagements start with our ability to establish and communicate our value proposition, and ValueCloud® has enabled us to do so at scale and has helped us to establish customers for life.” 

—George Kurtz CEO and Co-Founder CrowdStrike

The end of April represented the end of a Quarter for a lot of high-tech companies. Did your company ''come close” or “not get all the deals I thought we would have gotten due to (insert prospect excuse) and finished less than I thought we should have”? As we all know, the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. That’s what I’ve observed time and again in high-tech sales. The reason is your sales teams continue to answer the 1st two questions that cause people to buy your solution. Why buy anything and why buy your company’s solution? But they fail to answer the question that matters most. Why buy now?

Your sales reps are probably pretty good at identifying prospects who have problems they can help solve with your solution. And probably pretty good at selling why your company has unique features and functions that will cause you to win a pursuit (at least your better reps). But customers don’t buy features and functions, they buy business outcomes that drive Value for their company.

It’s the last mile that determines whether “winning” a deal means getting it closed on time, for the size forecasted and a relationship built on the customer buying Value versus Price.

Anytime I ask a CEO the top 3 reasons why customers buy from them; their answer is never price. It’s always the Value their solution delivers to their customers. Yet time after time your sales reps fail to arm your prospect’s Coach, Champion, or Economic Buyer with an easy-to-understand business case they have validated and support, to convince people who need to approve the spend that your solution stands above other product needs to be brought forward for approval.

As the economy continues to tighten, this issue will only get worse. So many companies are spending money to bring in sales prospecting tools, implementing various sales methodologies, and hiring more sales reps to drive a bigger pipeline. After all, sales is a numbers game, right? But adding more volume at the top of your sales funnel before fixing your bottom, only leads to greater spending with the same productivity and is not scalable. Ask yourself this question. Do you allow your company to buy things based on snazzy features and cool functionality? Or do you demand a business case that articulates why you should spend your precious budget now? And if you are deciding where to spend money between two competing products or two separate problems to solve, which one gets the nod? So why do you think your prospects think and behave any differently? So, what can be done to solve this? I’m glad you asked.

Buy DecisionLink before you buy another sales productivity tool or hire another sales rep. For less than a fully burdened sales rep who won’t be productive and fully ramped for 6-9 months, you can raise the productivity of ALL your sales reps in 30 days. Instead of starting a prospecting conversation with the usual features and functions chatter, they’ll start the conversation with a Business Value Hypothesis. “We’ve solved a similar problem with another company that is in your space, our solution drove a business outcome that looks like this (people buy solutions to raise the top line or take out costs). Does this sound interesting and can we pursue specifically how we can potentially do the same for you?” ALL of your sales reps will be enabled in 30 days to produce the document that will drive that initial conversation in less than an hour.

The solution then enables sales reps to jointly build a Business Value Assessment with their prospect’s direct involvement so the prospect owns the results and can defend them with the budget decision makers when your sales reps aren’t in the room. An easy-to-understand, plain English business case that clearly articulates the before and after analysis of the impact on the business your solution will drive. Want a long-term happy customer that will buy more, always renew and tell other companies to do the same? Establish the initial relationship based on Value and not features, functions, and the lowest price. You’ll see higher bookings that are more predictable with less discounting and a happier customer base. And as an added bonus a happier sales team will be more productive making more money with less attrition. What have you got to lose besides the same frustrating “diving catches” for deals you desperately need and Quarter end results that are less than your potential?

“In Q4, our first full quarter of usage, we saw deals with a DecisionLink Value Proposition closed at a 25% higher rate than those without.”

—Kristina Scontras Director of Sales Ops Amadeus 

“The results were stunning. What had previously taken around 8 hours and only delivered 90% of what was needed, with ValueCloud®, we were able to go from the first point of entry to a credible asset in 45 minutes.” 

—Trent Isaacs Regional VP Solution Sales Verint 

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Joe Sexton_sq

Joe Sexton is the former President of Worldwide Field Operations at AppDynamics. Prior to AppDynamics, he spent significant time in senior leadership roles at McAfee, Mercury Interactive, and CA Technologies. At each of those companies, Joe’s distinguished himself with his commitment to Customer Value which was critical to each companies’ success. Widely regarded as one of the ultimate sales leaders in the software industry, Joe’s leadership driving the growth of AppDynamics from a $12M early-stage company to a near $4B exit is a pinnacle achievement in the SaaS industry.

Joe serves on the Board of Directors of CrowdStrike, DecisionLink, Menlo Security, Contrast Security, D2IQ, and BrainBox Intelligent Marketing. He was recently on the Executive Advisory Board of PagerDuty where he helped their sales team while they transitioned from a private company to being listed on the New York Stock Exchange via a successful IPO.

Joe earned his BA in Marketing from the University of Kentucky. He is very passionate about mentorship, helping women succeed in the workplace, and teaching salespeople how to become Value Professionals.