Value selling: how to lead with value first – Part 2

Value selling 2

If you missed the first part of this blog series, please see Part 1 here. It includes a definition of the value selling concept, its benefits, the “why”, how to use it and also how tools can help you on your value selling journey.

In Part 2, we dig a bit deeper.

As we now know, value selling is a sales approach that prioritizes pitching the value of a product or service to your prospects, rather than mainly focusing on features and capabilities. It’s nothing new; however, the concept still hasn’t been widely adopted by the majority of salespeople.

Sure, many companies today say they are focused on providing value to the customer, and they might think they are, but most fail to get this completely right or they simply don’t know exactly what it takes to fulfill this important process.


Selling is getting harder, and takes longer

It’s also getting increasingly harder to sell. In enterprise companies, large committees often scrutinize purchases and evaluate them by conducting more research than ever before.

To add to the complexity, purchasing processes keep changing. 84% of buyers say their buying decisions are taking much longer than anticipated, while 77% say that buying is more complex or difficult than before. Also, the buyer journey is not linear, resulting in sales reps needing to deeply understand customers’ needs and plan for a complex journey.

Soooo… what to do?

This sets the scene for an amazing opportunity to facilitate the buyer’s journey. What’s needed is to deliver the right messaging, in the right way, at the right time.

Along with your unique insights, financial justification and differentiation, you can help get buy-in with increasingly larger buying committees and motivate your prospects to say “yes”. With value messaging, the right tools and training, your sales reps can have the right conversations at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

Here are some ideas on how to get started.


Step 1: Your value selling strategy starts with the customer

When businesses create their go-to-market strategy, they often start with product-focused content. This is what they later pitch to the customer. The problem is that if you’re looking to build a solid sales enablement strategy today, this approach doesn’t work.

Effective sales enablement starts with strategy and focuses on value. Firstly, you need to define your high-level approach which includes identifying your long-term goals and then creating a solid plan for how to get there.

Being successful in today’s ruthlessly competitive landscape means starting with the customer. You need to shift your sellers’ mentality to be customer-first.

Your sales reps need to work with your customers in order to understand them and better provide the value they need. If you don’t have access to your customers or prospects, work with your sales team. They have the most direct contact with them and can provide the best insights. Start with the customer, identify their needs and wants, and then create content that provides value based on that information.

When you provide content that directly speaks to your customer’s needs, they will be more likely to notice your value proposition and take action. However, note that the concept of value needs to be integral at the process level. Companies that are overly focused on product will simply be left behind.


Step 2: Frame the narrative according to the customer’s challenge

Before creating your value-focused content, make sure your sales enablement strategy accounts for value-based messaging. So, rather than talking about how great your product is at the beginning stages of the buying cycle, a sales rep properly trained in the value proposition will frame the conversation (and later, any content that is sent to the prospects) in terms of the customer’s challenge first.

When the prospect is engaged, the rep can position the product or service as something that can address those challenges, i.e., what value it can offer. Product, of course, does play an important role in the selling process. However, it can feature much later than you might think. Always lead with value, and be helpful.

Gartner research revealed that “customers who perceived the information they received from suppliers to be helpful in advancing across their buying jobs were 2.8 times more likely to experience a high degree of purchase ease, and three times more likely to buy a bigger deal with less regret.”

By restructuring the flow of what type of information is delivered and when, reps can create a much more compelling offer, and thereby increase the chances of selling.

Your content shouldn’t just list off your features and benefits, even if they are spectacular. Although the prospect knows you are trying to sell to them, you don’t want to come across as too pushy or promotional. Focus on sharing educational, informative and credible content. (We’ll touch on this in the final point, so we won’t go into it too much here.)

Instead, focus on and lead with the customer’s challenges. What are their pain points and problems? When you’ve identified those, you can use your content to position your product or service as a solution.

Therefore, instead of using a solution-first (product) narrative, reps should adopt a challenge-based narrative. The best way to conduct value-led conversations is to follow a good storytelling framework, which we’ll get to in the next point.


Step 3: Get your storytelling right

“Once more, with feeling,” as the saying goes.

So we’ve established that we shouldn’t start by listing off the product features. What we really need to do is appeal to our customers’ feelings and engage them emotionally.

How do we do this? Put your customer at the center of your focus. They should be your hero, or the main character of the story you will tell, so your proposition has a higher likelihood of resonating with them.

As with any good story, don’t jump right to the happy ending where the happy couple rides off into the sunset together. If we use a sales scenario, you should start by setting the stage for the buyer’s challenges and then dig into the pain they are experiencing. Don’t focus on what benefits you can provide first – put the spotlight on the customer. They are at the center of the story, all of the time.

Don’t feel very creative? Not to worry. Have a look at the five-step ICCOP framework below, which you can follow in your conversations with customers. You can use this framework to help you reframe your value articulation and make your sales more effective.

Start by identifying what challenges you can help your prospects with:


  • Issue: What challenges can you help your prospects tackle?
  • Cost: What are these challenges costing prospects and their business? Not just financial challenges are accounted for here, but also time, effort, etc.
  • Change: What is the change needed to tackle the challenge? Let’s compare the situation before with the desired outcome after the solution has been implemented.
  • Outcome: What business outcomes are desirable/possible, i.e., what’s the solution to their particular issue? What’s the vision for the future?
  • Proof: How has the proposed solution tangibly delivered similar business outcomes for others in the industry and made them heroes in their organization? Your own client testimonials are key here.

When your reps follow this ICCOP framework and differentiate value based on the buyer’s unique business challenges, they’ll be able to effectively articulate their value stories, which will resonate with buyers.

We quote Brian Cristiano when he says: “Facts tell. Stories sell.” He continues: “Sales stories and storytelling is about turning your sales pitches into stories. More specifically, it’s about using the prospect’s emotional desires as a basis for a storyline.”

Actually, it’s human nature, Brian continues. “It’s human nature to want to be taken through a story. If you try to swoon your prospects over with things like facts, you’re not going to go anywhere.

“On the other hand, if you can turn your prospect’s buyer journey into a thrilling story, then you have a firm grip on a closed sale, because you’ve tapped into their innate human desires,” says Brian.


How to tell a cohesive and compelling story

Anyone can tell a story, but it can’t be just any story. It needs to be a memorable and emotive one. How to do this is hardly a new concept. It was none other than Aristotle who shared the secret to storytelling more than 2,300 years ago.

You may remember this from your literature or philosophy class; it includes pathos, logos and ethos.

Here’s a brief run down converted into sales language.


  • Pathos: Appeal to your customer’s emotions. Communicate your solution’s value in a story framework and use visuals to make the story more memorable. Show stark contrast by painting a picture of the status quo versus how a favorable outcome could look. Professionally made videos are great for this purpose, and worth investing in!
    • For example, how do your customer’s staff feel at the moment? Overworked, undervalued, lacking time or work-life balance? Do they have a high staff churn rate which your solution could help rectify? How much better will you/they feel once they have automated their solution, and have more time for their families and friends? Visualize having a stress-free, relaxed and supportive, positive environment.


  • Logos: Appeal to their logic and reason. Quantify the “cost of doing nothing” and address both strategic and financial benefits, including ROI, key performance metrics, and quantified improvements. Provide financial justification, but at the same time, make it personal, relevant and specific.
      • Here, it helps to categorize your benefits in their language, focussing on the challenges they wish to solve and their desired business benefits. In most cases, these benefits can be grouped into four categories:
      • Cost saving/avoidance: How can your solution help reduce certain financial expenses or avoid future purchases?
      • Productivity/process improvements: How can your solution improve the productivity of specific workers or scale and streamline a process workflow?
      • Risk avoidance: How can you help reduce or avoid business risks and reduce costs should the risk be realized?
      • Revenue growth: How can you capture revenue opportunities or avoid potential revenue losses/challenges?


  • Ethos: Highlight the credibility of you and your company. Testimonials, case studies (ideally, in a video format) and financial results shine here. Provide evidence to prove the benefits are tangible and achievable. Include third-party validation of data if possible.
      • Client-facing content should seek to educate and inform. Ensure that all of your content, including the content on your website and blog, is educational and positions your brand as a thought leader and trusted advisor in the industry. This is important. Why? You want to come off as credible as possible – like you know what you’re talking about. Also, when you are educating and informing prospects about issues that are relevant to them, it’s more likely they will engage with your content and business.

By combining emotion, rationale and evidence (in that order) to tell your value story effectively, your sellers can develop engaging narratives and effectively articulate your value story in a way that resonates with buyers.


Final thoughts

At the end of the day, enterprise B2B buyers are only people, like you and me. Although we want to appeal with hard facts and figures, appealing to a customer’s emotional, logical being is often a stronger proposition. But it has to be done right. The ideas above, combined with beautiful design and visual (ideally video) storytelling, can help.

In addition, the way we can appeal to the sophisticated enterprise B2B buyer is through using omnichannel sales technology, which facilitates an excellent buyer journey and highlights value at every step. And, it makes the customer more likely to feel heard and acknowledged, thanks to the ease with which reps can share relevant content and messaging, regardless of which channel the prospect is using.

Value is top-of-mind for buyers today, and therefore, sellers need a clear road map to better communicate, quantify and deliver value for customers at each stage of the decision-making journey.

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