To the Future: A Word on Skills—Another Elephant in the Room?

We have seen that value is anything but a purely objective thing that can be analysed and quantified. We have also seen how people interpret what value means in different ways and that there is skill in subjectively interpreting what they mean when they refer to value. It is clear, therefore, that sales and marketing practice is a blend of the objective and subjective—value-ology.

On the one hand, there’s the detailed objective commercial analysis of business plans and campaigns, and on the other the emotional understanding that is needed for creating powerful brand associations. One day professionals are concerned with a structured and logical approach to account management and the next with interpersonal and social skills of face-to-face interactions. The deep capability of sales and marketing professionals is the ability to successfully balance and orchestrate objectivity and subjectivity.

Being objective is nevertheless believed to be the gold standard of business effectiveness. By acting in a rational and objective way it is taken as evidence that you’re cool headed, shrewd and calculated. The really interesting thing, though, is that when you get sales and marketing professionals talking off the record about what makes them stand out from their competitors, it’s the subjective things that make the difference.

So what does this tell us? Well, going right back to the beginning, it explains why we didn’t want to produce one of those books that you can open in order to instantly ‘crowd storm’ your value propositions.

A big advocate of this customer value-led approach is an old colleague, Tony Kane. He’s sold successfully for several of the world’s leading blue chip ICT companies using this approach and holds the view, as we do, that:

A value proposition is the difference between the value you can provide and the

cost of the thing you are providing

His rider to this is profound, or we think so:

Getting the costs is easy, understanding and articulating value is not

Salespeople tend to get lots of ‘value-ology’ training with high-quality organisations to help them try to unearth value from customer conversations and present value to customers. With all this we’ve seen that they have difficulty articulating value as far as customers are concerned. Qvidian research says that

58 % of deals end up in ‘no decision’ because sales has not presented value effectively.

What we’ve presented in value-ology is a process and a set of tools to help you move to a point where you can become a ‘value orchestrator’. Hopefully we’ve outlined some of the challenges and pitfalls on the way through, with some tools to help you avoid them.

We recognise that this book doesn’t tackle some of the skill set issues that we believe need to be recruited, trained and coached. Earlier this week we met a former first class marketing graduate from a client of ours who acknowledges the problem we’re alluding to here. Marketers tend to be classically trained on the core concepts of marketing or are provided with the technical competencies. However, we don’t believe this is what will make a difference between successful and unsuccessful implementation of our approach. There’s a long list of different skills required throughout this process:

  • • The left brain analytical skills to be able to analyse data about markets and customers
  • • Right brain creativity, which starts early in the process to help unearth customer value that may have not been seen before
  • • Lots of soft skills that are too numerous to mention: the ability to get stakeholder buy-in from sales and senior executives, negotiation skills, resilience, etc.

There’s certainly scope for a follow-up work on ‘value-ology mastery’, which could look at the skills required to unlock customer value.

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