Venn for Value

I always forget the name of this and call it “that circle chart.”  Many times, a Venn diagram is a useful way to summarize an idea.  In this case, I use it to show the key distinction of effective enterprise selling: a focus on the intersection of improvements, features, and business drivers.   This is the key to success.

Some folks confuse value based selling with simply selling via ROI.  Although ROI is important, selling value is much more than just that.  In its essence value based selling is taking our solution’s unique combination of improvements and showing how they align to those things the prospect cares about.  And quantifying this alignment is necessary because, well, at the end of the day dollars rule.  That’s the language of the corporation.  But everything has to be aligned.

If we break the challenge down a little bit, we can paint several pictures that most of us will be familiar with.
  1. Take for example sales people who spend most of their time focused on features, functions, company info, and demos.  What’s interesting is it’s not impossible to see a deal happen with this method.  But what this rep doesn’t understand is how much he’s relying on – really - the luck that the person across from him will connect all the dots associated with improvements, quantification, and alignment to key business drivers.  Basically, they’ve stumbled onto a master internal seller.  Unfortunately those are not very common.
  2. On the other side a more recent phenomenon is the rep that does nothing but ask questions around the customers situation and pain, without any “value add” in terms of unique perspectives and experiences or focus on overlap with his solutions' benefits.  The authors of The Challenger Sale point to this as one of the causes of "Solutions Fatigue."
  3. And there are the folks who only talk about the business benefits of their solution outside of any context of the prospect’s specific situation.  Mahan Khalsa in Let’s Get Real calls this "Premature Solutions."  While probably much more effective than demo based selling, these folks will also struggle with no connection to Customer Drivers, and to a lesser extent features and functions.
The trick of course is to not get trapped into any one of these areas by themselves, but instead focus on overlap.  The Challenger Sale speaks about teaching.  This is spending time talking about the overlap of features and functions with business benefits.  Vendors typically have some very useful, often times unique, insights to share, or “teach,” here.  But that’s not enough.  We also need to learn about the prospect.  Neil Rackham, in his seminal work SPIN Selling, uses the paradigm of questions to highlight the importance of prospect specific information, but in the end it’s what we learn that matters, regardless of technique.  Although, the idea of using Need-Payoff Questions is a powerful one.  Align the customers Need (or pain or goal or driver) with the Payoff (or Benefit or Improvement).  Learning should therefore be focused on the overlap of the Vendor’s business benefits and the prospect’s business drivers.

Of course the ideal place to take your prospects is where all three areas overlap.  This is where you’re learning, and teaching, and aligning, and quantifying based on a comprehensive and integrated discussion of Product Features, Solution Benefits, and Prospect Drivers.  This is the essence of selling value.  The only way you can create what Mack Hanan, in Consultative Selling, called a Profit Improvement Proposal (PIP) is to deeply understand this intersection.

Do you have tools to help you focus on the intersection?  Is it easy for you to connect Business Drivers, Improvements, and Features?  Do your ROIs lack context?  Is the data you need hard to find?