How you sell and deliver value to prospects can become a powerful driver of growth and a key differentiator for your company. That’s the promise of customer value alignment, a go-to-market framework presented by Zebrafi CEO Jeff Kozer, a guest speaker at Cultivate’s Revenue Engineering webinar series.
In many companies, there is a disconnect between what the sales team says, your marketing materials promise and what the firm actually delivers to customers. In addition, many organizations don’t maintain a consistent message flow across all of their customer-facing operations. Plus, the messaging they use tends to be very product-focused, which means it often isn’t aligned with the needs and values of their key prospects.
Customer value alignment solves these problems by first focusing on “zebras,” prospects that are perfectly aligned with your capabilities, culture and ability to deliver value. It then uses carefully constructed business cases to attract others that it can serve well.
“A zebra is the prospect that is a perfect fit for your company---and not just from a product or solution perspective. It is a prospect that you know can win based on identifiable, objective characteristics.”
- Zebrafi CEO Jeff Koser
Ideally, this strategy not only improves marketing and sales alignment. It also focuses the entire organization – including sales, business development, sales operations, marketing communications, product marketing and research and development – on the right prospects and the right solutions that deliver exceptional value to them.
Ultimately, how you demonstrate and deliver value is an excellent way to differentiate your company from competitors. It also helps to create a sustainable platform for growth.
Step one: build an ideal customer profile
Koser identifies seven key criteria that make up an ideal customer profile. He recommends that you develop them by reviewing past deals won and lost to help you zero in on the types of customers who are aligned with your capabilities and for whom you can deliver the greatest value.
In strategic order, they are:
Organizational profile: There needs to be a strong cultural fit between your company and your “zebras.”
Operations: This part of the profile clearly identifies the problems you solve, the pain you alleviate and the value you create for your best customers.
Access to power: In the world of customer value alignment, “Power” refers to the decision-maker, the executive who has the authority to allocate funds to purchase your solution. The other four attributes are dependent upon having access to this person.
Funding: What is adequate funding for your ideal customer to purchase and implement your solution?
ROI/value: What value do you need to prove to justify your ideal prospects’ investment in your solution?
Technology: What technology do you bring to the table that adds value to your ideal customer? For example, your firm’s engineering expertise may be a competitive advantage.
Service: What do your best customers need to be successful after the sale that they’re also willing to pay for?
Use these seven attributes to qualify all marketing leads and sales opportunities. As a start, this profile helps you to align your marketing and sales efforts. But ultimately, it gives you a disciplined way to identify deals worth pursuing and how much internal resources you should devote to these potential “zebras.”
Step 2: Create business cases
The next step in customer value alignment is to create business cases around the value and impact your company can deliver to your zebras – the ideal prospects you identified in step one.
Typically, B2B marketers write case studies, which are a description of the problem an existing customer faced, how they selected your solution and the impact it created. They’re often very product-focused.
But business cases are different, according to Koser. They are focused on the voice of the customer – their specific problems and pain points, communicated in their words – plus metrics that quantify the business impact your solution created for them.
Step 3: Focus on Power
Focusing on the decision-maker early in the selling process is hardly a new concept. But Koser’s value-based go-to-market strategy transforms how companies can approach “Power.”
These decision-makers aren’t gatekeepers in the traditional sense. Rather, they are usually top executives who don’t often grant meetings to sales representatives. Koser points out that you need to earn the right to speak to them. The door-opener in customer value-based selling is the business case you created in step 2.
The first step of getting access to power is to do research. You need to find proof that they have the same problem you’ve solved for your best, existing customers – which you detailed in your business case.
Next, you need to prepare a preliminary business case that’s tailored to your specific prospect. It incorporates data that you uncovered during your research process. Koser calls this a “hypothesis” of the value you can create for them.
Third, your marketing team needs to create penetration messaging that takes the value-based nuggets you’ve uncovered and transforms them into messaging that’s worthy of Power. Your goal is to gain sponsorship – an opportunity to present your preliminary business case and permission to work with their stakeholders to verify it.
Koser provides an example of how this messaging could be crafted to gain an audience with power:
“I targeted you because you’re similar to my best customers. I believe you have the same problem they faced. Here’s the proof I found. Here’s a business case that I prepared for you. It quantifies the value I could create for you, based on these similarities. If you see enough value in it would you be willing to assign people you trust to investigate and validate it?”
Using this approach, Power comes to its own conclusion about the potential value you can create. Koser emphasizes that phrasing your inquiry in this way shows that you recognize and respect their power. It also allows them to opt-in or opt-out of your business case verification request.
He explains that their decision will ultimately depend on the amount of pain they currently have, the amount of value you can create (as demonstrated by the newly-verified business case) and whether or not they have an urgent need to solve that problem now.
“Statistics show that 85% of sales meetings with prospects are off target in one way or another. Either they’re targeting the wrong person or their preparation is off the mark,” Koser points out. “That’s why decision-makers are so reluctant to meet with us. Taking a value-based approach turns the tables to focus on their problems and needs. It also re-focuses the conversation on the verified value your solution can bring to them, not the attributes of your product or service. That’s a powerful differentiator,” he adds.
Once you have your entire organization aligned around this innovative go-to-market strategy, it can transform how you serve your zebras – targeting the right ones, persuading them of the value you can provide to them – and then consistently delivering on it. This approach can ultimately drive more sales, greater customer loyalty and sustainable growth.
To learn more about customer value alignment, contact MaryAnn Long at Cultivate Communications or Jeff Koser at Zebrafi.