Aligning Products and Solutions to Themes: From Bombardment to Customer Value Conversations

In this chapter we will look at:

  • • How to array solutions, products and services under the themes you have selected
  • • Developing a framework for understanding where you may have gaps in your offers
  • • Providing a methodology for cross-selling and upselling products and solutions
  • • Seeing a path for finding gaps, developing solutions and partnerships
  • • Developing a ‘golden thread’ that aligns product marketing to proposition themes

Crucially, at the end of the chapter you will be in a position to stop bombarding your customers with random feature-led product launches. Instead, you will be set up to be able to have a value-based conversation with them about how you can help solve their business problems.

Why Is This Important?

We have already seen that as far as customers are concerned it’s absolutely not all about the product, far from it. We can point to a number of surveys that bear this out. For example, we know that when Forrester asked Fortune 500 C suite executives involved in buying decisions why they chose a certain vendor

© The Author(s) 2017 S. Kelly et al., Value-ology,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-45626-3_5

only 16 % cited a vendor’s products, services or capabilities to be the most important factor separating them from the pack. Executives overwhelmingly believed that vendors who understood their business problems and could prescribe solutions to them were the ones that won out. Despite this, only 27 % of C level executives found salespeople knowledgeable about their business.

We live in an era when business is most often lost to customer inertia, where customers are highly likely to do nothing if they are not convinced of the need to change. Jill Konrath observes in Agile Selling (2015) that buyers increasingly keep sellers out, because in their experience most are ‘Productpushing peddlers who don’t bring any value to the decision making process, ask stupid questions, offer minimal insights and give boring presentations’.

We also know that increasingly customers are concerned about how they are sold to, not just what they are sold. Corporate Executive Board (CEB) research cited in The Challenger Sale (2011) showed that 53 % of customers said their loyalty was enhanced by sales reps—if they bring valuable help and insights. So if you bring insight into the sales process and show understanding of the customers’ business issues you are providing them with differentiation in your approach.

We also saw in Chap. 2 that even organisations that rate themselves highly for value proposition development still run to product comparisons when asked what sets them apart. No wonder they have difficulty articulating how they differentiate themselves from competitors. We’ve pointed out the danger in starting at the top of our value stack at account-based marketing level without establishing proposition themes and failing to array products against them.

In this chapter we’ll give you the tools that will help you have an ongoing conversation with customers about the issues that affect them, and how your products and services can solve these problems. This framework will allow you to introduce new products seamlessly by integrating them under the umbrella themes. This should signal the end of ‘boring presentations’ that portray your organisation as a bunch of product peddlers. It could be the beginning of a rich and fruitful path to sales and revenue growth based on customer conversations that add value to their business and yours.

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