In two interactions in the past week, I listened to two salespeople who believed they were using their value proposition to create value for clients. One was a cold call and the other was a cold email. In the first case, the salesperson asked for a first meeting by going hard on the value of their solution. The second salesperson described their value proposition twice in the same cold email.
In both cases, the value proposition was well conceived and delivered. Both companies have good reputations and can deliver on their value proposition. The problem is that both salespeople pitched the value proposition too early. In doing so, they assumed the buyer was already motivated to change, which isn’t often the case in a first cold interaction. Neither salesperson sought any indication that their contact was ready to engage. Before having a conversation about the value proposition, salespeople should ensure their client is prepared to change. Otherwise, no one will be successful.
Running Past the Sales Conversation
When a salesperson moves right to their value proposition, it is like they are running straight past the sales conversation. Few buyers will act simply because a salesperson explained their value proposition. The reason they call it the buyer’s journey is because the buyer needs to go through several conversations before buying from you—or your competitor.
When we talk about consultative selling, we look at the conversations buyers and decision-makers must have to consider a decision that can improve their results. When you take a transactional approach to the buyer’s journey, you are more likely to leave a first meeting without securing a second one.
Hold on to the Value Proposition and Your Pitch
Generally, there are several sales conversations you and your client need to have before you get to the value proposition.
- Why Change: In The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales. We call this conversation “Exploring Change.” Imagine a salesperson calls you and immediately pitches you their value proposition without providing any context. You would reject the value proposition. So will your prospective clients.
- Change: I am not big on qualifying early in a sales conversation. Whether you use BANT or MEDDIC, there are more than enough providers that your contact can find a salesperson who is other-oriented who can help them. If you can tell there is interest, ask what they need to do to move forward.
- Collaboration: Your value proposition is excellent, no doubt. Even so, your contacts might not agree that the way you deliver value is right for them. By pitching early, you miss the opportunity to develop a solution that will work for all stakeholders.
- Consensus: If you sell to enterprise-level targets, you will need to help your contacts reach consensus. The earlier you pitch your value proposition, the more you risk locking out stakeholders who need to support the change. Before pitching your value proposition, make sure everyone understands the context surrounding the change.
Slow Is Fast and Fast Is Slow
Avoid trying to create velocity. Instead, pursue momentum. The faster you go, the harder it is for your prospective client to keep up. You should not be in a hurry to win. Instead, focus on winning the deal, which requires giving the client the time and attention they need.
Over the past decade, sales organizations and their sales leaders have become brainwashed into believing that the greatest value is efficiency. Allow me to intervene and remove you from the cult of sales efficiency. The highest value is effectiveness. It is better to go slow and win than to go faster than your contacts and lose.
Your contacts are already time-starved and spending too little time with salespeople. Don’t do something that might cause them to spend even less time with you.
The Order of Value Creation
In the sales conversation, you create value by helping your buyers learn what they need to know to decide on change and a partner. Later, you build the value of your solution. This is where you are going to lean on your value proposition, but even then you need to customize it to your client and the stakeholders involved in approving a decision. Finally, you need to deliver the value and then begin the process of creating new value and growing your client, and helping them grow their business.
Your Value Proposition Isn’t Valuable in an Early Sales Conversation
I am positive you have an excellent value proposition. You may be excited to share it because you believe it will wow your contacts. And it will, but not as a pitch for a meeting and not early in the sales conversation.
While the value proposition isn’t valuable in the early conversation, it is important in later conversations. You need the patience to wait until you and the client understand the context you are facing. Only then will it be effective. The desire to use it early is a mistake.
Work your way through the conversation creating value for your contacts and helping them make a good decision. When it is time to discuss your product or solution, you can share your value proposition in the context of your prospective client’s problem. This will show them how it can improve their results, which is the reason behind your first meeting.