Value selling: why you should lead with value first – Part 1


How do you convince a seasoned B2B buyer nowadays when there is more competition than ever?

It’s simple, really. As our old friend Simon Sinek famously said, start with why. This is as true for value selling (aka value enablement) as it is for business strategies or any other objective where you want to convince (OK, encourage) people to buy what you have to offer.

Most B2B sellers inherently know that it doesn’t usually help to list off the product or service features first. However, for some reason, many of them still don’t apply the value-based selling approach.

In fact, according to Forrester, only 10% of buyers report that sales reps are using a value-focused approach, with most of them still focusing more on the product’s features and capabilities when pitching. Unless you already have a super-engaged buyer, they tend to lose interest quickly when hearing a list of product features too soon.


What is value selling? 

Value selling is a sales approach that prioritizes communicating the value of a product or service to your prospects, rather than mainly focusing on their features and capabilities. The approach focuses more on the benefits a customer derives from using your product or service.

Yes, we’re aware that it may seem a given, fundamental even, to be talking about focusing on the value of products. However, there is a reason for this. From what we have seen and read in the industry, a value-based approach to selling is still far from the norm. We can also draw a likeness with the term consultative selling, although that is slightly different in its approach.


Why should you use value selling?

Well, traditional selling just doesn’t cut it anymore. Sellers need to fully overcome “decision friction” and avoid costly delays in buyers’ purchase decisions. We simply need to go beyond traditional sales enablement.

Today, more decision-makers are involved in B2B buying processes, and the buying cycles are longer than before. Not to mention a little something called the pandemic, which dramatically impacted how purchase decisions were made. Now, sales interactions are more digital and remote, so sellers need to work smarter to engage buyers and win more business. Leaning toward value selling instead of focusing on products can help.

Value-focused sellers tend to be more consultative than traditional sellers. They ask probing questions to understand the buyer’s situation, avoid pitching products, and instead, uncover their buyer’s challenges and speak about how their products or services can help solve those specific problems and benefit the buyer’s business.

Companies focusing on a value-selling experience see:

  • Increased buyer engagement and win rates
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Higher revenues from both new and existing customers
  • Faster sales cycles
  • Higher customer retention rates
  • Larger average order values


The dangers of not using a value selling approach 

The consequence of sellers not focussing on value first may be what we call a value gap, or customer expectation discrepancy (aka disappointment). This means there is a big divide between your buyer’s expectations and what your product or service pitch delivers. As a seller, this is exactly what you do NOT want. Do you think the customer will buy from you when they are disappointed with what you have communicated?

The RAIN Group Center for Sales Research has found only 16% of commercial team members could clarify what the return on investment (ROI) would be for buyers. Value selling helps bridge the value gap. The ROI is usually financial, but there can also be other “returns”, i.e., other ways to obtain value from a product/service.

How do we focus on value when selling?

What’s needed, ideally, is a deep dive into your prospect or customer’s story and their challenges. This will allow you to align the value of your product (its benefits and “why”) with your client’s needs.

How does your product or service help? What are the long-term outlook and benefits? How will your customer’s life be easier? Paint a vivid picture. Use visuals or even videos/demos if you can. Make them truly SEE how much better their life will be!

Perhaps there’s a slight mind shift, gear shift and routine shift needed for B2B sellers, as reps often understand the need for value-based selling tactics, but when it comes down to it, still employ the product-focused pitch.


Employ a modern value selling approach

There are several ways in which you can utilize value selling to differentiate yourself from the competition. 

How can you integrate sales, relevant content, and value selling (or value enablement) to engage and delight the buyer in every interaction? The three main pillars are:


  • Demonstrate your deep customer knowledge. In your sales content, the copy should demonstrate expertise and credibility. Speak directly to the needs of that particular buyer through challenge-based storytelling. You should demonstrate that you know and understand their unique challenges, and how your product helps them overcome those challenges. Remember, every customer is different! They all have unique needs. At the least, they should all be made to feel special and unique. Personalize content to your customers and tell the stories they need to hear, instead of the messages that companies often assume are important.


  • Differentiate content. Commercial teams need to facilitate each step in the buying process, and the best way to do this is by differentiating sales content. Make it yours. Use your particular language, branding and USP. You also need to bring your sales content to life and make the design shine, especially in this hybrid business environment. Design must be beautiful and interactive to pull remote buyers in. Customers also need easy access to relevant content, pricing and competitive information. Make the process easy – streamline touchpoints and processes if you need to. Also keep a keen eye on which content is working. You may need to track and monitor this manually to determine if the content is facilitating sales.
  • Communicate value. The value of the product or service must be clearly and consistently communicated to buyers in the context of their unique business challenges. Remember the questions we previously asked: How does it help? What are the long-term outlook and benefits? How will your customer’s life be easier? To facilitate this step, have a look at the value-selling framework below.


The modern value selling framework

Sound easy enough? Ensure your commercial teams create continuous value acceleration for buyers. This means building value at each stage of the buyer’s journey. Not just at the sales pitch.

Think of value selling or value enablement as a life cycle. It’s like a circle where you can wash, rinse and repeat the steps for each customer; although, of course, the results or outcomes of each step will be different depending on the customer.


    • Define what value means: Start here. In order to better communicate the value for buyers, you (as a business) first need to align on exactly what value means to your buyers. Define the initial value for buyers and then continuously refine the ultimate value delivered. Across your product, enablement and customer success teams, create and use value messaging, models and tools to quantify the value of your product, how it is differentiated and how and why it is credible. Value today should be a practice – a mindset, skill set and tool kit for your entire organization, not just your revenue teams. Equally, you should define what value isn’t. When you have this vision finalized, you want to focus on establishing value across the entire customer engagement lifecycle.
  • Attract with value-focused content: Secondly, it’s up to your marketing team to engage your buyers by creating and distributing value-focused content, interactive self-service diagnostic and value assessment tools, and value success stories.
  • Discover the customer’s unique value needs: Now, your commercial teams should engage with your prospects to deeply understand their challenges, align capabilities and estimate the potential value.
  • Recommend a value-focused solution: After the deep dive, it’s up to commercial teams to propose a specific solution to the buyer. You should also provide financial justification and value proof points to obtain buy-in and approval from decision-makers.
  • Review and realize value: Now, you activate your customer success and professional services teams to prove that the proposed value has actually been realized. This often happens in yearly business reviews and will be important to gauge whether your solution will be renewed.
  • Amplify and expand value: In this step, your teams leverage the realized value to expand and amplify. From the derived outcomes and successes, they propose expanded use cases and new solutions and services. This in turn provides more proof of value and evidence to move new buyers to take action on a new set of solutions.

Proposed value is top-of-mind for today’s buyers, so commercial teams need a clear blueprint to better identify, communicate, quantify, build and deliver value for customers at each stage of the buying journey.

Combining a value-based mindset and skill set will enable your business to better communicate and quantify your differentiated value, land the deal, deliver the value promised and retain and expand your revenue based on proven customer outcome success.


How sales enablement software can help value selling

Value selling is great, but what does sales enablement software have to do with it? This type of software can help you ensure your commercial teams (including sellers and marketers) are communicating your value proposition at the right time and in the right way throughout the buyer journey.

Using an all-in-one enablement solution means you can incorporate content management, guided selling, rep coaching and training, and interactive client presentation capabilities. This way, your sales teams can keep all the up-to-date sales and marketing content in one place and search for and access the right content at the right time.

They can also access, present and share relevant sales content on demand – the right content at the right time. Importantly, the software also enables them to understand how buyers are consuming individual content assets and determine their level of engagement.

Equally, sales reps can pivot sales conversations to address what’s most important to the buyer in real time. Real personalization at its best! Not only that, but good sales enablement software allows you to create unique buying experiences with content that is personalized, relevant, timely, compliant and pre-approved. This all means that you are able to lead more engaging sales conversations with dynamic content that holds your buyer’s attention for longer.


Final thoughts

In our view, commercial teams that genuinely personalize the sales experience and create an immersive buying experience will own the future.

It’s no longer enough to know the value of your product or service, and think that you can communicate this. You need to ensure you understand the customer, talk to their challenges, and differentiate your company (product/service) to deliver and cut through even when there are larger buying committees. You need to employ modern sales enablement: interactive, beautifully designed and value-focused content. On top of that, using a modern sales enablement tool can help you achieve your goals easier and quicker.

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