2019: A Transformative Year for DecisionLink, ValueCloud® and Customer Value Management

Happy New Year!

The year 2019 was a truly transformative year for the DecisionLink team. Isn’t it interesting that so many people talk about value or customer value without really being able to quantify it or provide data to support the concept? Isn’t it also incredible when sometimes we see that someone else has invented something that seemed like such a no brainer and we think to ourselves “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Well, the founders of DecisionLink knew ValueCloud® was something unique and special for many years actually, but in 2019 they found themselves with some really amazing customers and an incredible team of A players to help them tell the story. Now, more industry analysts, media, customers, CROs, value engineers, sales leaders, marketing leaders, customer success leaders and many other enterprise leaders are beginning to really see and agree that DecisionLink and ValueCloud® are leading the new technology category called Customer Value Management (CVM).

A big part of the reason why ValueCloud® is so groundbreaking is because really for the first time, there is a remarkable solution for helping enterprise businesses treat customer value as an asset and customer value management as a discipline. In other words, ValueCloud® helps your customers understand the numbers and metrics supporting the value of your product or service to them. So, it is all measurable and not as vague or challenging to demonstrate as it has been in the past.

It’s like when you were a child and you stretched out your arms and said, “I love you this much!” Then, you grew to be an adult and you really wanted to show the person you loved how much they meant to you, so you bought them a ring, or a car or maybe a special vacation trip. You wanted to be more specific about the value you place on having that special person in your life.

Now, companies want to demonstrate to their customers that the value of their relationship truly has specific metrics associated with it. The metrics are really worth regularly revisiting and even improving upon in various ways as the relationship grows and expands.

In 2019, DecisionLink achieved new funding with Accel, one of the top venture capital firms and Joe Sexton, a Silicon Valley sales leader legend. In 2019, Vendor Neutral certified DecisionLink as the technology leader in the Customer Value Management (CVM) category.

We built an infographic for you to take a look and celebrate with DecisionLink about all of the 2019 key highlights and exciting milestones along the ValueCloud® journey. We invite you to take a look at the infographic and we hope you will consider requesting a free value assessment so you can join us on this incredible journey! Your customers past, present and future will thank you.

Happy 2020 from all of us at DecisionLink!

Dynamic Value Messaging: The Problem of Not Having It and How to Get Started Part 2 of 2

By Tamara Schenk

Tamara Schenk is a Research Director for CSO Insights, Sales Enablement Leader, Author & Award-Winning Keynote Speaker

Using value messaging as part of a commitment to implement Customer Value Management (CVM) can help sales leaders and sales professionals achieve quarter end or year-end goals for closing business.

This is part 2 of a 2-part blog series about the struggles sellers face with developing clear understanding of the buyers’ business problems and then effectively demonstrating customer value-based metrics to support the solution for putting everyone on the best path for ongoing growth and success.

Last week’s article “Dynamic Value Messaging: The Problem of Not Having It and How to Get Started Part 1 of 2”discussed the problem of not having dynamic value messaging for B2B companies. This week’s article now reveals the answer to the problem and how to get started with solving it for your company.

The answer is to implement a dynamic value messaging framework that leads to three things: to effective, targeted and tailored content, to sellers who are fluent in their value messaging approaches in various situations throughout the customer’s path, and to engaged buyers who are more likely to buy from you.

How do you get there? Below are five ideas to get started. But first, imagine value messages as the glue that holds your content assets consistent. That’s the foundation for any training and coaching effort.

#1: Clarify who owns value messaging, or understand the difference between marketing and sales messages.

Marketing often owns all value messaging efforts. As we live in the age of the customer, and their CX along the entire customer’s path is essential for their buying decisions, this “marketing only” approach no longer works. Additionally, there is a difference between marketing messages (broader audience) and sales messages (micro audience). A strategic sales enablement function that orchestrates all enablement efforts from content to training to coaching along the entire customer’s path is in a perfect position to own the value messaging approach. And marketing’s role is basically growing because of the broader scope along the entire customer’s path. Because the enablement teams must ensure that the value messaging is integrated in all content, relevant training and coaching services, it makes sense to have them orchestrating the process.

#2: Define the criteria that impact your value messaging types.

You should consider four types of value messages that are used at different phases of the customer’s path: value hypothesis, value messages, unique value messages and value confirmation messages. Now the question is what criteria impact these messages. Think about criteria such as the business challenges your products and services can solve. Then think about the relevant buyer roles and the different phases of the customer’s path. Think about the impact of different buying situations and their embedded risks (renewal vs. new problem to be solved) and your own position as a vendor (e.g., If you are a startup, you usually have to provide more value to cover the bigger risk).

Using the example of the case study, you would mainly look at the awareness phase of the customer’s path, the main problem your products and services can solve and the relevant buyer roles, such as a business leader, a finance role, a program manager, a technical buyer role and a procurement buyer role. One customer’s path phase, one problem to solve and five buyer roles require five tailored messages.

#3: Develop and implement a value messaging framework.

A framework is mandatory to gain scalability and efficiency. Imagine such a framework as a visual that helps you work backwards from the customer’s path and its main phases. As a mirror to that, imagine the different value messaging types we identified in #2. Now, for each phase, you can map all of your relevant content types. For instance, you have a customer-facing presentation per role, and you may have case studies, success stories and white papers, value calculation tools and diagnostic tools. You also might have enablement content such as playbooks, objection handling, competitive intelligence, configuration guidelines, etc. Such a framework also should show how these value messages can be connected and integrated in the relevant content, training and coaching services.

In sticking with the case study example, the framework would ensure that the relevant value messages exist for all relevant phases of the customer’s path (for this asset, it’s mainly the early buyer awareness phase) and the relevant buyer roles. Now enablement teams can take these messages and create several case study assets or ­– the smarter approach ­– create case study modules that can easily be assembled and tailored by sellers prior to a meeting.

#4: Creating targeted and tailored value messages requires leveraging lots of brains – and technology.

After the theoretical setup, it becomes very practical. How to get to these different buyer- and business problem-focused value messages? Ideally, have a neutral moderator leading the workshops. Choose one who is very familiar with such a dynamic value messaging approach. Have all functions involved, including marketing, sales (not only sales enablement, but also actual salespeople!), product management and customer success. Make sure the moderator leads the process from the buyers’ perspective, because nothing else matters. And of course, integrating the customers’ perspective first hand is the most beneficial way to do it.

Additionally, you should leverage the latest technology on customer value management that can help you provide the actual numbers that should go with your value messages, based on previous projects, actual cases or on models you have created for new services. Some technologies also are able to help create predefined content assets, as well as integrating actual customer experiences

#5: Enablement has to ensure a solid integration into enablement services to create consistency and enable performance.

Now the sales enablement team has a lot to do. It has to ensure that your case study assets and all other relevant content and training services are updated with the new value messaging. Ideally, they also create interactive playbooks that guide salespeople along the customer’s path with all of the messaging they need at their fingertips, including links to additional content to be used.

Effective sales enablement leaders don’t stop there. Instead, they ensure that their sellers are developed the right way, that they have enough practice and that the sales managers coach along those lines.

 

Are you ready to get started now? DecisionLink is ready to help! If you would like a free customer value assessment, please click HERE

Dynamic Value Messaging: The Problem of Not Having It and How to Get Started Part 1 of 2

by Tamara Schenk

Tamara Schenk is a Research Director for CSO Insights, Sales Enablement Leader, Author & Award-Winning Keynote Speaker

Using value messaging as part of a commitment to implement Customer Value Management (CVM) can help sales leaders and sales professionals achieve quarter end or year end goals for closing business.

This is part 1 of a 2-part blog series about the struggles sellers face with developing clear understanding of the buyers’ business problems and then effectively demonstrating customer value-based metrics to support the solution for putting everyone on the best path for ongoing growth and success. Stay tuned next week for part 2 of this series which will provide ideas for developing a better value messaging framework.

Selling is all about communication. It’s about communication between sellers and buyers, between people who can solve specific business problems and people who experience these problems in their organizations and have a desire to solve them.

So effective communication between sellers and buyers is not about products, as we found in our 2018 Buyer Preferences Study. Instead, it’s about diagnosing the actual problem and its business impact and communicating tailored and targeted value to the involved buyers and their particular context. That also can be summarized as communicating insights and providing perspectives that allow buyers to learn how to best approach their problem to achieve their desired goals. After all, effective seller/buyer interactions are about impactful business conversations; they’re not about a product pitch at all.

Engaging, enabling and empowering sellers to be fluent and effective in buyer interactions requires sales enablement teams to do a lot of homework.

It’s not only about how salespeople communicate with buyers, but it’s also about what salespeople communicate to different buyer roles at different stages of their customer’s path – and that’s all about dynamic value messaging.

“Isn’t this all about the right value proposition?” No, it is not. Effective value messaging is a lot more than that. In the age of the customer, there is no such thing as one value proposition working in a “one-size-fits-all” manner. If that’s your current value messaging approach, you should precisely check all of your leading indicators at the top of your pipeline in terms of value, volume and velocity. Additionally, you may want to analyze your pipeline for stalled deals; I’m sure you will find a lot of areas for improvement there. The closer you come to the end of the quarter, the more relevant these analyses become, as they clearly show you how much business you will leave on the table.

Organizations continue to struggle with effective value messaging.

On a high level, we learned in our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study that only 43% of all study participants consistently and collectively communicate effective value messages that are relevant to their buyers’ needs. By the way, this is the exact same result we had for this practice in 2017, which means the industry is not getting better with value messaging. Not even half of the population gets one of the key areas of successful selling – effective value messaging – right. The more competitive your market is, the more urgent it is to fix this problem.

Only one-third of organizations tailor their content to buyer roles and customer’s path phases and achieve up to 16.6% win rate improvements. That means two-thirds miss out on this potential

Looking at the matter in greater detail, we found in our Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study that only 35.3% of organizations tailor their content assets to their relevant buyer roles, and only 31.5% align their content to the customer’s path. These two dimensions (buyer roles and customer’s path phases) are the most critical to implement, and here’s why: Organizations that tailor their content to buyer roles and customer’s path phases achieve up to 16.6% better win rates for forecast deals.

Additionally, two-thirds of organizations (64.7%) do not align their content services with their product and value messaging training services. That means two-thirds do implement inconsistency that leads to low performance.

If the value messages in your case studies are not tailored to buyer roles and the customer’s path, and your sellers are not enabled accordingly, you run into a performance problem.

As an example, let’s look at case studies, a content asset that’s often used in the early phases of the customer’s path to establish a shared vision of future success. The above data means that, for instance, only one-third of organizations have tailored and targeted messages in their case studies. That means two-thirds do not. Additionally, two-thirds did not develop their sellers to get to consistent value messaging fluency. And even if they invested in value messaging training, it wouldn’t work because their training services are not aligned to their content services.

The question, then, becomes how to solve this problem and get to these performance levels.

The answer is to implement a dynamic value messaging framework that leads to three things: to effective, targeted and tailored content, to sellers who are fluent in their value messaging approaches in various situations throughout the customer’s path, and to engaged buyers who are more likely to buy from you.

Next week’s blog will provide ideas for developing a better value messaging framework. In the meanwhile, if you would like a free customer value assessment, please click HERE

The ‘Hard’ versus ‘Soft’ Benefit Conversation – part two of two

by Bob Caravella

Bob Caravella is one of the industry’s leading experts on value engineering. He built and led the business value engineering and consulting practices at Mercury Interactive and HP Software – including value model engineering and enabling the worldwide sales teams to carry on meaningful value conversations with customers. He is a member of the DecisionLink Management Advisory Board

As sales leaders run the gauntlet for what is soon to be the end of the last quarter of the year for many companies, we’d like to introduce you to Customer Value Management (CVM), a beacon of hope for, among other things, building business cases to close business. In part one of this two-part blog series, we explored the definition of hard and soft benefits, and how to become your customer’s trusted advisor on value. In this final part, we explore how to reposition the nature of a benefit, deal with push back and the expectations gap, and how to ensure you’re asking the right questions.

Reposition the nature of the Benefit. Sometimes it makes sense to think of a benefit in a different way. For example, instead of defining the benefit in terms of ‘FTE (Full Time Equivalent) Labor Savings’, define and position it as ‘Cost per Event’. Thus, if a call center call currently costs $5 per call, and you can claim a 20% productivity improvement, then the Cost per Call is reduced to $4. On one million calls per year, that’s a $1M savings.

Deal with Push Back. Expect buyers to push back on the productivity ‘doing more with the same’ scenario. This conversation usually turns on three possibilities.

Natural attrition or terminations – For buyers looking to reduce costs, turn productivity improvement into actual FTE (headcount) reduction. FTE reduction can be handled by terminations and natural attrition. For example, If you are in an environment (such as a call centers) where attrition is very high, you can argue that there is no need for a 1:1 replacement during a churn event.   However, avoid quantifying productivity savings that are highly splintered and distributed, like two minutes saved per person over 1,000 people. It’s too easy to challenge this claim and impeaches the credibility of the overall business case. Quantify productivity savings only if it can be meaningfully aggregated for a given process (i.e., a substantial chunk of time is saved).

  • Reduce future hiring needs – For high growth companies, this can be treated as FTE cost avoidance.
  • Opportunity cost – More projects making their way through the queue, reallocating resources to growth initiatives rather than keeping the lights on. Keep in mind that this may be more challenging with organizations and in countries that don’t understand opportunity cost well.

Service delivery people need to bridge the ‘expectations gap’ between the buyer and seller. If not careful, a service delivery person can get caught up in the expectations debate between buyer and seller. As a service delivery person, be sure to:

  • Set measurable baseline expectations at proposal time, gain agreement on the baseline collection of metrics that will be used to measure success, and periodically measure value realized
  • Establish a trusted advisor relationship with your sales team to ensure the proposal or project plan is closely aligned to your client’s business goals. For example: scaling up without adding resources, or reducing downtime to generate more revenue.

 Ask the right questions

  • Two questions help frame the hard vs soft discussion with a buyer. First, what could they do with the time saved? And second, what is the next best alternative? Sometimes FTE savings are hard to discuss, but when framed in the lens of ‘what would it cost to outsource the work to a service provider,’ it makes quantifying the benefit more compelling.
  • What business drivers are you measured on? For example: number of new customers, call center calls, security breaches, IT staff size, etc.
  • What additional goals cannot get accomplished without increased productivity, such as handling backlog, reducing project idle times, or preparing key deliverables?
  • What would you do with the extra time if you can save X% on Y tasks? Response to this question may lead to positioning improvements in terms of increasing gross margin and revenue. These are clearly the most impactful areas, but highlighting efficiency gains that free up smart people to do solid analysis can lead to very positive and impactful outcomes.
  • What are your company-stated business goals with respect to productivity gains? How do you treat direct (hard) versus indirect (soft) benefits in your business case?
    • Are you only interested in saving real dollars by FTE reduction either from attrition or layoffs? Or are you willing to ascribe a financial value by repurposing labor to more strategic pursuits through process optimization?
    • Challenge your buyer; ask ‘what if you could generate more revenue with the same resource?’
  • Do you subscribe to ‘lean principles’ in making a business case? The Lean method is a philosophy centered around eliminating waste and providing the best customer experience. Using lean techniques creates more value for customers with fewer resources.
    • For example, consider a solution that delivers a 20% productivity improvement for a call center agent. Having 20% more time doesn’t necessarily mean downsizing; it can mean having the potential to achieve more. In today’s labor market, it is often hard to recruit qualified people, so perhaps that call center agent now has the time to train staff for higher skilled, higher value positions. Value added work comes in many forms that can drive incremental profit for the company.
    • What would your buyer do with 20% more time? How many more customers can be helped, and how much happier will they be? What is a customer interaction worth to your organization? What is a rough, plausible dollar figure? When a 20% productivity increase supports a company-stated business goal it is easier to sell up the management chain.

Bottom line: Value comes in many forms, and benefit discussions can take many directions. It is essential to build the right relationship with the customer to understand their needs and have the conversations that allow all parties to understand where benefits become value and how that value can be measured.

Would you like a free customer value assessment? If so, please click HERE

The ‘Hard’ versus ‘Soft’ Benefit Conversation – part one of two

by Bob Caravella

Bob Caravella is one of the industry’s leading experts on value engineering.  He built and led the business value engineering and consulting practices at Mercury Interactive and HP Software – including value model engineering and enabling the worldwide sales teams to carry on meaningful value conversations with customers.  He is a member of the DecisionLink Management Advisory Board. 

The following is the first part of a blog series that explains an important aspect of Customer Value Management (CVM) and value selling — the justification of investment in B2B solutions using ‘hard’ vs. ‘soft’ benefits.

When 30 professionals recently weighed in on the issue of using ‘hard’ versus ‘soft’ benefits to justify investing in B2B solutions, the responses (perhaps not surprisingly) were uniformly consistent: ‘it’s in the eye of the beholder (aka, the Economic Buyer).’ Nevertheless, because the professionals represented a diverse group of individuals across different roles (buyer, seller, delivery) and different business functions (IT, Supply Chain, Value Engineering), their perspectives and responses are worth noting.

 One person, commenting on the importance of the hard versus soft debate noted, ‘it’s a great question that strikes at the heart of credible value messaging, and the reason why c-level buyers don’t take claims of 600% ROI with 3-month payback seriously.’ Here’s a summary of the exchange and some food for thought.

First, let’s try and define hard versus soft

  • Hard Benefits, sometimes referred to as ‘Direct’ or ‘Tangible’ benefits, are the line items that directly impact P&L. They are typically found as line items in budgets or project plans. Hence, they are ‘measurable’ and someone can be held accountable for performance. Examples include FTE (Full Time Equivalent) labor costs, annual contract service expenses, hardware or software expenses. The mantra for this type of benefit is ‘Doing more with less.’
  • Soft Benefits, often referred to as ‘Indirect’ or ‘Qualitative’ benefits, are line items that do not show up in budgets. Typically, they are risks that would be mitigated to a degree by making an investment in a B2B solution. For example, mitigating the risk of end user productivity or revenue loss, customer disloyalty, or regulatory non-compliance penalties. The tagline for this type of benefit is ‘Doing more with the same.’ The point being that existing people can be reallocated to more strategic work, perhaps increasing revenue or improving the customer experience. These are harder to measure.

Become Your Customer’s Trusted Advisor

Never assume you know what the customer means by ‘hard’ versus ‘soft.’ Establishing a Trusted Advisor relationship with your customer requires clarification on what Benefits are ‘hard’ versus ‘soft.’ That way a meaningful measurement baseline can be established. Here are some lessons learned to consider.

  • Focus on the buyer’s desire to change
    • Don’t get caught up in philosophical debates about hard versus soft costs. Rather, understand the nature of the change the buyer is committed to making.
    • If a customer is going to realize the benefits, they need to make changes. Help your buyer think through the changes needed then focus on the best way to quantify the potential benefits realized from those changes.
  • Reframe the conversation
    • Challenge the status quo and push for alternative ways to move the needle. Productivity measurement can be applied to any form of capital or human resource and knowing how productivity efficiencies align with competitive advantage and bottom line results should be where the conversation starts.
  • Gain insight into the buyer business transformation strategy and drivers
    • Understanding the customer’s strategy and expected outcomes will dictate how you position benefits. In some cases, you may need to shift the conversation from cost savings to revenue growth. A high revenue growth company views benefits differently than a mature, slow growth business with a need for cost savings.
    • Positioning benefits depends on the growth curve of the buyer: a fast-growing company can avoid adding headcount in the future, or reducing workload so that people can work on more strategic activities with a bottom-line impact. Gain insight into the drivers of growth (e.g., case call volume) over the coming years. Ask if they plan to hire to cover this growth and if hiring can be avoided, would that be tied to hard savings.
    • If you know that the customer isn’t looking to reduce FTEs, but is looking to expand to a new market, align the FTE benefits to this strategic initiative and refactor the benefits around revenue growth. You may say something like, “By streamlining and automating this process, we can add five FTEs to the market expansion project, reducing the time to market by two days resulting in $xxx of additional revenue.”
    • Are mergers and acquisitions part of the strategy? If so, a productivity argument can be made such as, ‘you can assimilate the acquisition without the need to hire more people, resulting in a tangible and measurable cost avoidance.’
  • Go with the flow
    • Ultimately, the buyer decides what’s ‘hard’ versus ‘soft’, not you. Never draw attention to the type of benefit that is being measured. Wait for a buyer to request a breakdown, don’t volunteer it. Once the decision is made, always lead with hard benefits. While soft benefits can be quantified, they should come along for the ride.
    • A “soft” benefit that can be tied to an opportunity cost, like deferred hiring, customer retention, or a faster product launch, becomes significantly more tangible; thus, it can be treated as ‘hard’. This often removes a buyer’s hesitancy to include it in the business case.
    • Productivity savings are more compelling for some roles than others. CEOs, other executives, and people in the supply chain (like strategic planners, material planners and designers) typically prefer hard benefits. Support functions, general employees, agents are usually more receptive to soft benefits.
    • Soft benefits may be treated as ‘Other (Qualitative) Considerations’ in your business case. Keep in mind that soft benefits may play a larger role with quality or process-oriented customers. Some companies discount relevant soft benefits to 10-25% of the value of a hard benefit.

In part two we’ll explore how to reposition the nature of a benefit, dealing with push back, bridging the expectation gap, and how to ensure you’re asking the right questions.

Would you like a free customer value assessment? If so, please click HERE

DecisionLink at the Pre-Sales Value Engineering/Pre-Sales Leadership Collective Fall Workshop: Customer Value Management for Pre-Sales Leaders

John Porter and Kristina Cutter of DecisionLink recently led thought leadership discussions surrounding Customer Value Management and value selling for pre-sales leaders at the Pre-Sales Value Engineering/Pre-Sales Leadership Collective Fall Workshop on October 14, 2019.

John Porter is the CTO and Co-Founder of DecisionLink. He is the visionary and pioneering technical expert creator of DecisionLink’s ValueCloud ®. John is a pre-sales thought leader who also leads the Customer Value Management group on LinkedIn.

John has split his career almost 50/50 between pre-sales/pre-sales management and value engineering for small and large technology companies like edocs, Siebel Systems, Oracle and SAP. John and his team have built the DecisionLink ValueCloud® to help customer facing resources (pre-sales, sales, customer success and product marketing) to easily quantify, articulate, defend and ultimately measure customer value throughout the entire customer journey.

Kristina Cutter is the Senior Director of Customer Enablement for DecisionLink. She is former Director of Sales Operations and Enablement at Amadeus Hospitality. While there, she successfully launched and led a value selling program for over 70 field reps internationally. She is now a part of the DecisionLink team working with customers from Pre-Sales through Implementation and Enablement.

Together John and Kristina led a presentation at the Pre-Sales Value Engineering event at the Seattle Pre-Sales Leadership Collective that was held at the Smartsheet offices in Bellevue, WA on October 14, 2019.

The Seattle Pre-Sales Leadership Collective is an exclusive community of the best pre-sales leaders at growth companies that work together to network, share experiences, and learn from one another. Our membership consists of leadership from companies such as DocuSign, SAP, Concur, Tableau, Smartsheet and many more. They host Seattle-based workshops specifically for pre-sales (sales/solution engineering/consulting) leaders for networking and group discussions. The workshop topics revolve around leading a pre-sales function within a growing sales organization.

This was a full day event that was focused on why it is crucial to include a business case with every opportunity and how Pre-Sales can help as the “tip of the spear” with speaking to value EARLY in the sales process. The first half of the day was spent on what we are seeing in the marketplace, followed by a panel made up of folks who implemented “value practices” at their organization. The second half was more tactical and focused on how to create value statements and benefits in an easy to understand/scalable way.

There were 20 pre-sales leaders in attendance, and they were all really engaged and interested in learning more about insights into trends in the evolving Customer Value Management market. The presenters explained how pre-sales can facilitate value selling conversations, lead value programs, and elevate the acumen within customer facing personnel across the board. During the session, John and Kristina also conducted a workshop that taught participants how and where to build their first value model and apply it to a customer scenario.

In addition, Kristina Cutter participated in a panel discussion on the topic of Customer Value Management with the following participants:

Trent Isaacs
Trent serves as Regional Vice President, Solutions Consulting and Value Selling at Verint systems.  In this role, he leads teams of presales Solutions Consultants in supporting enterprise software sales in the Americas.  He has successfully launched a value-selling program in the region used for over 100 field staff. Prior to his 13 years with Verint, he held senior leadership positions responsible for the management of contact center operations in the BPO space for 10+ years.

 Taylor Boldt
Former retail strategy consultant at Merkle Loyalty Solutions. While there Taylor worked with companies like L’Oreal, Sony and Michael Kors to maximize customer spend and retention. Taylor is now a member of Value Engineering team at DocuSign where he is responsible for all things DecisionLink. The tool has been rolled out to over 500 users across North America.

 Josh Lankford
Josh is a former Sr. Value Engineer within JDA’s Global Value Engineering team, where he specialized in understanding client needs and mapping them to JDA solutions in order to drive value attainment.  Josh has over 20 years of experience across Manufacturing and Retail organizations, and has held various roles across operations, IT, consulting, and software sales. Josh’s strengths include both a depth as well as breadth of knowledge across Retail, Merchandising and Supply Chain operations gained as a practitioner as well as a consultant / vendor.  Josh’s passion lies in helping others define the strategic initiatives and roadmaps needed to unleash the value within their organization and his diverse background enables him to successfully lead cross functional and cross-cultural teams in achieving their objectives.

Would you like to schedule a free DecisionLink ValueCloud® customer value assessment for your company? Please click here to schedule.

Handling Objections to Starting a Customer Value Management Program

A Customer Value Management (CVM) program uses metrics to ensure high levels of value are delivered to every customer based on their needs throughout the life of the relationship. Managing customer value as a practice and with an enabling application allows enterprises to treat customer value as a strategic asset and win business and retain customers more often; decrease discounting, accelerate deal cycles, market and showcase value, price more effectively and reduce churn.

One of the biggest challenges, especially at organizations that are just dipping their toe into formal customer value selling, is push back on “why do we need this?” and “can this wait?” This flies directly in the face of almost every sales methodology which says aligning your solution and value to customer initiatives is imperative in:

  1. Reducing loss to no decision
  2. Minimizing deal erosion, via discounting, at the negotiating table
  3. Speeding up the sales cycle

Why all the push back? And what do we typically hear:

  1. My sales people are not ready to have these conversations
  2. Our customers are not asking for this
  3. We are in the middle of rolling out a formal sales methodology

Let’s take each one of these in context…

My sales people are not ready to have these conversations

It is true that today, in many cases, only the top 20% of sellers are ready, willing and able to have these conversations confidently. Coincidentally, they are almost always your top performers. If you can, through a Customer Value Management Program, bottle the DNA of these top performers and make it available to others, you could double or even triple the number of top performers in your organization. What would that mean for sales leaderships and your company’s success? To that end, the right time is yesterday not tomorrow.

Our customers are not asking for this

Your prospects/customers may not be directly asking for a business value assessment or business case, but they are going to be lucky if they get funding approval from the company for this quarter without one. In reality, most of your “buyers” have not bought your type of solution before, they are not experts in the value it brings and what differentiates it from, not only competition, but also “do nothing”. By leaving this in their hands you have effectively removed any control you have over the sales / buying cycle. Additionally, there is no better way, within the buyer, to figure out who has to get involved and what steps are needed to sign than to start socializing a business case for changing the status quo.

We are in the middle of rolling out a formal sales methodology

Let’s face it, the #1 reason sales training and methodology implementations fail is because two days after the training everyone forgets what they have learned and ultimately reverts to the prior habits. A Customer Value Management Program, at its essence, is a way to reinforce most of these sales methodology and training investments through tooling and support. Now the investment in making your people successful can be reinforced in their daily deal engagement.

When it comes down to it, selling value offers many benefits and delivers results that improve sales performance across the board. There are always excuses to put things off, but the faster the process begins, the sooner the benefits are enjoyed.

Would you like to schedule a free customer value assessment for your company?  If so, please click here now!

Why Quantifying Customer Value is so Hard Part 2

by John Porter, CTO and Co-Founder for DecisionLink

This blog is the second in the series on why quantifying customer value is so hard.  (If you missed the first in the series you can read it here)

The key topic here is understanding and audience.  One of the biggest challenges a Business Value Consultant (BVC) or Value Engineer (VE) faces effectively communicating the customer value quantification of your solutions.  An old adage says “it very easy to make the simple complex, but simplifying complexity is a true art” and let’s face it most of us are consultants and engineers not artists.  We focus on spreadsheets and data to convey very detailed and complex topics and many times we are the only one in the room who can explain.

Herein lies the issue!  In most cases, the collective “we” (BVC, VE, SE, etc.) is not in the room when the real decision is made to buy and are completely dependent on our business sponsor to sell on our behalf.  If our buyer, who is not an expert in our solution or the value it brings them, is ineffective in positioning the need for our solution to solve the business problem and demonstrating the payback the customer will achieve, the chance of the dreaded “no decision” is very likely.

I pose these questions:

  1. How have you simplified how your sellers and ultimately your buyer’s ability to communicate your business case during the buy cycle?
  2. How many benefits / areas of value do you find effective as focus for engaging customers?

 

Productivity Benefits for Customer Value Management:  Hard or Soft? 

Productivity Benefits for Customer Value Management:  Hard or Soft?

Mark Camilleri
Director of Value Engineering
DecisionLink

Do you position improved productivity benefits of your solutions as a hard or soft dollar savings as you work towards improving customer value management?  Most practitioners place productivity improvements in the soft bucket, however, I would argue that depending on the benefit and how you position it, they could be counted as hard savings as well.  Ultimately, it’s going to be whatever your customer / prospect buys-off on, but if they can be convinced to count them as hard dollar savings, that just further improves your customer value positioning.

So, what kind of benefits are good candidates for hard dollar savings to help sell value?  It is going to be difficult for any customer / prospect to agree that “generic” productivity gain benefits are hard dollar savings.  However, if you can tie benefit to the actual cost of something (typically some sort of event) it can potentially be brought to the table as a hard cost savings, especially if it is tied to an important KPI for the customer / prospect.  Taking a simple call center example.  If you articulate your benefit as improving call center agent productivity by 20% you are going to have a difficult time convincing any financially savvy customer that is a hard savings unless they have plans on downsizing.

However, by simply positioning the benefit differently, you may have better success with your customer value selling efforts.  Imagine their cost per call center call is $5.  If you still claim your 20% productivity improvement, the cost per call is now $4.  If you are saving $1 per call (a vital KPI in the call center world) on 1M calls, that $1M savings can now be better argued as a hard dollar savings.

Again, it’s always going to be boiled down to what your customer accepts, but to simply always categorize your productivity gain benefits as soft savings allows your potential customer value of your solutions to be diminished.

What are your thoughts?  When / how have you been able to achieve hard dollar saving buy-in for productivity gain benefits?

If you’d like to schedule a free customer value assessment, please visit this page:

https://www.decisionlink.com/free-stuff/

Why Is It So Hard to Quantify Customer Value?

Customer Value Management Is Key to Solving the Problem

by JOHN PORTER

This is the first in a series of blog posts which will cover why quantifying value is so hard.

Value Engineering, in its purest form, is designed to align the value of what you sell to the opportunities that buyers have, quantitatively. The hope has always been that by doing this, it would help create budgets where they don’t exist and/or protect your margin against erosion when negotiating. Doesn’t seem too difficult. Right? Think again!

So why has automation eluded us for the most part? One of the main reasons is your value constantly changes.

Take for example a software company:

  • You have at least one major release per year which adds to your value
  • Your customer use cases are constantly evolving
  • Your competitors are doing the same

Should you look to automate the process of Value Selling or Value Engineering, you need to catalog and evolve your value constantly and consistently. You also will need to make sure this catalog is something you sales team can understand, or your will not be able to enable the “tip of the spear.”

Failure to constantly evolve your value or put it in terms so that your customer facing resources can understand, articulate and defend, is to maintain the status quo. The effective management of your customer value is key. This is a major reason why we think that Customer Value Management is a huge deal and why companies who master using the right technology and discipline will win!

As I look at the market at the present moment, granted from my DecisionLink point of view, I do not see a lot of companies that seem to be getting this right.

So, I pose a few questions:

. How have others done this effectively?
. What has worked and what has not?
. Why are we only supporting a small fraction of deals?