It’s just common sense that companies that clearly communicate their understanding of the customer’s problem, and then explicitly define their value & differentiation in the context of that problem, have a distinct competitive advantage. Unfortunately, in order to create effective contextual value and differentiation messages, you first need to break down the customer’s problem into […]
Between their beautifully conceived offerings and the buyer exists that interesting collection of people known as “the sales force.” And in the majority of companies, the human capital costs of the sales organization comprises a significant share of corporate operating expenses. Investing in sales performance improvement solutions isn’t inherently a bad idea – some offerings might actually work well for your organization. For example, if your organization has no coherent “framework” for selling – by all means move from ad hoc behavior to some semblance of order and management science (we encounter and address this often). But conversely, many ideas might also not work well at all – even if they’ve benefitted other organizations that seem similar to yours.
The fundamental difference between product messaging and solution messaging is the process of breaking down a customer’s problem into its underlying causes. Sales people have been taught this concept for several decades now, yet over 95% of business oriented marketing organizations fail to reflect this fundamental aspect of a solution strategy in the content they produce.
Like all cultural transformations, the transition from product-aligned thinking and messaging to solution-aligned thinking and messaging requires management vision, leadership, and process. The good news is that just like implementing a buyer-aligned sales process, it’s not rocket science, it doesn’t create traumatic culture shock, and it doesn’t take a lot of time, cost, or effort to get started.
An overwhelming majority of marketing organizations adopt the Hybrid Value Model when they decide to support a solution oriented sales strategy. The hybrid model combines both buyer-aligned and seller-aligned perspectives and it supports high level problem-solution messages along with more tactical and explicit feature-function messages.
The Strategic Importance of Value Models: Whether you sell a commodity product or a complex business solution, a value model is the foundation for your positioning and messaging strategy because it determines how you communicate the purpose, value, and differentiation of your products and services. Like the product-feature-function model, value models provide the taxonomy for collecting, organizing, and sharing the marketing and selling knowledge that drives the three critical marketing deliverables that I mentioned in the introduction.
The pressure on B-to-B product marketing organizations to increase their strategic relevance and their impact on sales has never been greater. They have to quickly find a way to: Create more customer relevant positing and content; Do a better job of generating, cultivating, and nurturing leads; Improve their alignment with sales and deliver tools that enable salespeople to have more meaningful business and value conversations with their customers…
Feature comparisons and competitive matrices are the core ingredients of effective product centric marketing and selling messages. But unfortunately, when most marketing organizations try to make the transition from product centric to solution centric messaging the focus seems to change from communicating differentiation to one of just describing how their products and services solve the customer’s problems.
The most important reason that solution centric messaging initiatives fail is the reason! Nope, this isn’t a riddle, but unfortunately it is a mystery that few marketing organizations have been able to solve.Effective solution centric messaging needs to clearly answer four critical customer questions…
It is rare to find an organization where salespeople actually understand the key problems that the organizations’ solutions solve. This is normally a much larger problem the more solutions the company offers and the more technical the solution sets…