Guest Blog with Verint: Four Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Rely on Spreadsheets for Value Selling

With the launch of our latest whitepaper “Customer Value Management: Why Excel Can’t Cope,” DecisionLink spoke with some customers, prospects and advisors to capture their experience and opinion of using spreadsheets and homegrown solutions to manage their value-based selling and customer value management efforts.

We spoke with Trent Isaacs, RVP, Solutions Consulting and Value Engineering at Verint. In his role, Trent oversees the value selling program and a team of presales consultants. With nearly 30 years of experience managing and contributing to corporate value selling programs, Trent shares the 4 key issues that he’s uncovered as shortcomings to managing a value management practice with Excel and custom-built spreadsheets.

Reason #1 – Spreadsheets usually only shows one expression of value and do that poorly.

In our years of using Excel to put together any level of business case, what we found was that the authors really only ever presented time-to-payback models and called them “ROI” models.  Very rarely did we ever express value in terms of NPV (Net Present Value), TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) or even proper ROI (Return on Investment).  That lack of flexibility in expressing the numbers usually meant that the only person who consumed those numbers on the customer side was our sponsor. When it came time for them to make a decision, they would almost always have to go through the effort of creating their own models and trying to translate our data into them. I always suspected that bias would enter the equation and we would completely lose control of the work at that point.

That lack of flexibility in creation in Excel, coupled with all the issues that have been called out in the “CVM: Why Excel Can’t Cope”, around mathematical errors, variability in user skill, and the lack of easily created customer facing outputs robs you of critical credibility to the customer regarding your acumen in value selling.

Reason #2 – No visibility to what has been created means auditing the work is a nightmare.

It is worth calling out that in an environment where each seller is using their own Excel tools, you have no practical way to audit what has been done either by volume of work or, even worse, the details of what has been created.

It’s a pretty awful feeling when you are in final preparation for a presentation, or even in the presentation itself, and you are faced with an overly complex Excel table that has been stuck in a slide to try to express value and try to make sense of. In the end, the final products delivered were riddled with logical holes, weak expressions of value or outright math errors that were hard to correct or defend.  That is way too much variability in deliverable quality to accept and expect to be successful.

Reason #3 – It is a vortex of time and effort

One of the biggest issues I had in our Excel days was simply trying to fit in the time and effort to build an Excel-based business case around all the other tasks associated with selling. Depending on complexity, it could take weeks of effort to pull a business case together.  This slowed our momentum and felt like a chore from the customer perspective. The cultural impact of that was that sellers actively tried to avoid doing business cases! That left them in mire of selling on feature/functionality and price instead of value and outcomes, which we all know is not where we want to be.

Reason #4 – It made us dumber about value

If the only definition of value selling is “did we do an ROI model in Excel?”, then you are lost and might not even know it. Excel became a crutch for us to use when we wanted to SAY that we had focused on business value when all we had really done was model potential benefits.  Excel-based models are a task, not a method. After years of working in that way, I believe it took us backwards in our understanding of how to talk about value from the very first steps with a prospect. The best way I can say it is that the way we used Excel models was designed to facilitate our selling process when what we were looking for was a way to facilitate the customers’ buying process.  They weren’t looking for clever math in a static spreadsheet, what they needed from us was a clearer message of how buying from us would bring value to them personally and to their organization broadly. That’s a very different way of selling.

Selling customer value is not only important, it’s essential! If you can’t show how you can deliver value better than your competition can, you’ll find yourself in a price and feature battle and in defense-mode trying to justify your price. Download our whitepaper to see why it’s time to use a cloud-based, enterprise-class solution instead of spreadsheets, and let us know if we can help you to explore ways to help your organization manage, automate and scale customer value management.

The Value Digest

At DecisionLink we’re all about value. When we’re not building enterprise-class software solutions for Customer Value Management (CVM) like ValueCloud®, we’re busy exploring what’s going on in the world of value and sales leadership. In ‘The Value Chronicles’, published every second week, we’ll be sharing some of the news and editorial that has caught our eye.

  • DecisionLink’s Founder and CEO, Jim Berryhill, was published in Selling Power: “Customer Value Management is Here”. Jim explains that, “widely-used CRM applications manage customer “relationships,” but do little to capture, manage, and leverage data associated with customer “value.” Customer value management (CVM) adds not only the discipline and methodology to capture value data, but also a math engine to create actionable intelligence from value data – driving better business outcomes for both buyer and seller.”
  • Forbes contributor, Adrian Bridgwater, asked: “What Is Technology Scalability?” Adding, “The technology industry is always talking about scalability. It’s a key buzzword. ‘Our platform is eminently scalable and capable of adaptive accessibility across multiple change vectors,’ claims just about every IT spokesperson, ever. But what does any of that really mean and why is scalability such an attractive and necessary term in the eyes of IT marketing folk?” Scaling is a key component to DecisionLink’s ValueCloud® and a key motivation for so many of our customers.
  • According to Smarter with Gartner, Chief Sales Officers must anticipate and prepare for changes in the environment that can threaten business success in “A CSO’s New Year Action Guide for Uncertainty”. No matter what side of the political fence you’re on, there are some great points that CSOs need to keep in mind as they guide their sales teams through an economically and politically charged year.
  • We’re thrilled for our customer and partner, DocuSign, on being named a Leader in the Contract Lifecycle Management Magic Quadrant by Gartner, Inc.
  • Key accounts are the lifeblood of many B2B organizations, but you’ll need to rally the entire sales organization to maximize the value of these relationships. Interesting points from Gartner about running a successful Key Account Management program in their blog, “Ask These 3 Questions for Key Account Management Success”.
  • And from IDC, “Three Capabilities That Drive the Future of Intelligence: The Next Source of Competitive Differentiation”. What comes to mind when you think of intelligence within your organization? Is it having access to the latest information on key metrics, such as revenue, costs, and profit? Or, is it a broader view of ‘all information’ you need to make a decision?

We built an infographic that celebrates the 2019 highlights and milestones along the ValueCloud® journey.  We invite you to take a look at the infographic and consider requesting a value assessment so you can join us on this incredible evolution of customer value management.  For more regular updates follow us on linkedin.com/company/decisionlink, www.twitter.com/decisionlink or Facebook.com/Decisionlink

The Smart and Powerful Women of DecisionLink

As our world celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, 2020, we wanted to take a moment to recognize the amazing and talented women of DecisionLink.  

Who you do business with matters – and these women are customer value management leaders with a passion and enthusiasm for helping enterprise companies lead the value selling transformation as companies move from product-oriented to solutions-oriented business models.

Meet ten DecisionLink team members who innovate, lead and empower our customers and our company every day. 

“Early in my selling career, one of my female mentors from IBM said to me ‘Joanne, put the customer first, and everything else will follow.’  I took this advice to heart, so much so that I studied my customer to the point of sitting in their branches and understanding how value was delivered to their end clients. I read their annual reports to understand how value was created overall for their investors.  As a result, I had an amazing 20-year sales career and then another 10+ year marketing career. I was so successful, that HP recognized my value-based approach and asked me to build out their HP Sales University. My mentor/friend gave me the best advice ever and it’s advice I pass on to all females today on International Women’s Day – learn what your customers value, and learn to speak the language of business and finance, and you will achieve every goal you set your sights on.”
-Joanne Moretti, CEO of JCurve Digital, Board Member, Investor & Interim CMO DecisionLink

“After having led a Business Value team for 4 years, I have an incredible appreciation for what DecisionLink enables our customers to do. Being a Value Consultant is a tough job and there are never enough hours in the day to effectively quantify value for every account. The leadership team at DecisionLink has trusted and empowered me to lead our demand generation efforts and I’m excited to be in a position to be able to expose the market to the tangible, significant impact that our solutions can have on an organization.”
-Lizzie O’Rourke, Director of Marketing

“As a former customer, I have experienced first-hand the power of ValueCloud® and the impact Value Selling can have on sales organizations. Now, in my role at DecisionLink, I get to engage with prospects and customers each day to help them to realize those same results.”
-Kristina Cutter, Senior Director of Customer Enablement

“Working with bright and fully engaged employees who love what they do is truly a force that drives business outcomes. Most of us play multiple roles in our lives, but we embrace it, are motivated to perform and committed to doing quality work. I believe and live by what Zig Ziglar said was required to become truly successful in life. He said, “You can have anything in life if you first help others get what they want.” The members of our management team lead with compassion and integrity—  committed to helping us reach our goals and maximize our ability to have an amazing career — but also create a culture that supports the values, principles, and relationships that matter most. At DecisionLink, employees can focus and execute on the company’s goals and still succeed as mothers, wives, and whatever else we aim for in our lives. Every day, I wake up feeling grateful for my team, happy to help others, and excited to make an impact on people’s lives!”
-Shirley Dunkley, Sales Development

“DecisionLink afforded the opportunity to turn my passion for document formation and presentation design into a career. For over four years, I’ve been helping our customers turn their creative ideas into template masterpieces that can be generated from the ValueCloud® and used as positioning tools for their sales teams.”
-Deanna Spinelli, Associate Value Engineer

“Most of my career so far has been as part of an inside sales team, both as an account rep and as a team manager – I’m passionate about finding solutions for customers that make their lives easier, always challenging myself and the organization to see how much more we can do. As a manager, I spent years training young sales professionals how to work with customers to build relationships and find ways to have smarter, more meaningful conversations with the customer’s goal in mind. My role as a Value Engineer allows me to utilize my previous experience in a new way, working directly with our customers to talk about their value messages and how we can develop them into a structured model within ValueCloud. I enjoy learning about our customers’ sales approach and using my analytical skills to translate that into a formulaic tool that an organization can use to have meaningful conversations with their customers. ValueCloud is an incredible tool that can add tremendous strength and depth to the sales conversation, and I’m proud to be part of the team bringing this to the world.”
-Heather Henderson, Value Engineer

“I love most that I get to come alongside a truly amazing team, to provide support and deliver solutions that enable them to work more efficiently every day.”
-Takiyah Turner, Manager of Human Resources and Finance

“I’ve spent over 25 years visually translating complex concepts across healthcare, technology and professional societies. My graphics help people better understand key messages and ensure consistent brand identities. DecisionLink helps companies better convey customer value to their prospects and customers. I’m thrilled to be leading the visual storytelling role at DecisionLink.”
-June Price, Creative Director 

“It’s all about value!  As a social media expert focused on building out organic strategies for marketing & sales, I can see that DecisionLink just gets it!  In today’s modern selling landscape, you have to stand out from the noise in the eyes of your competition. Your buyers are overwhelmed with all of the online information sent to them.  So the fastest way to be noticed by your prospects is to show your Value with numbers and metrics and proof. This whole Value approach that DecisionLink is now offering the business world is a welcomed & very needed paradigm shift.  I am happy to be part of it!”
-Tracey Fudge, Social Media Expert

“I became aware of the importance of using business value metrics to support sales and marketing initiatives early in my career.  I have communicated the business value of various types of pioneering technologies over the years. I wrote the “Business Case for Intranets’ chapter of the Intranet Resource Kit book published by Osborne/McGraw-Hill.  In the early days of Intranets, company leaders were unsure of the business value offered by the technology.  My chapter helped company leaders better understand how the new technology could help them from a business perspective.  Now, my role with DecisionLink is helping analysts, media and influencers better understand about DecisionLink’s unique customer value management technology and methodology that is enabling enterprise companies achieve amazing business results.”
-Ann Krauss, Influencer Relations Director and Marketing/PR Growth Advisor 

We built an infographic that celebrates the 2019 highlights and milestones along the ValueCloud® journey.  We invite you to take a look at the infographic and consider requesting a value assessment so you can join us on this incredible evolution of customer value management. 

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!