Here’s an example of what I mean by failing to create contrast:  Within LinkedIn profiles, inmail messaging and email communications with potential buyers, sales and marketing professionals offer superficial reasons to change, such as the customer’s current IT system lacks timeliness or is prone to error. But, they don’t show what they mean by the how their current system lacks timeliness.

Without clearly articulating “the hell if the customer doesn’t buy their product,” the sales and marketing hasn’t set up the need for “the heaven if the customer does buy their product.” Without contrast, we are just trying to rescue customers who are only ankle deep in problems. As a result, customers either stick with the status quo or they buy at a discount, because they don’t see the value of change. With 40 percent of B2B sales and marketing opportunities ending in no decision, selling change is a big part of articulating value.

Indeed, customers are not ready to believe in the viability of a company’s product until they realize that they are out in the middle of the lake drowning in problems. This will only happen when you make the contrast feel real by making it concrete. If you can’t make the contrast feel concrete, then the prospect can’t picture it in their head. It’s abstract. It doesn’t feel real. You are asking prospects to take your word for it that their product creates value. It’s magic.

Specifics Win the Sale
Naturally, we at first try to make our LinkedIn profiles and messaging general, because we believe it will then appeal to a wider audience. However, what we find is that it appeals to no one, because it’s abstract. But by making your before word picture concrete, the customer may say their situation is slightly different, but at least they get it.

For example, I was working with a salesperson who wanted to encourage a client to move their learning management system from their ERP system to the cloud. The salesperson created contrast by preparing an effective “hell if they don’t” move to the cloud picture by stating how “innovation had made most companies’ corporate learning management systems out of step with how employees expected to consume information, because they only received quarterly updates three times a decade when the ERP system was updated.”

But the contrast was still vague, because I can’t picture in in my head how the learning management system is out of step with how employees expect to consume information. So I asked the salesperson to be more concrete by providing a specific example, and she said “to access a course, for example, employees had to click on a link that would then take them to the homepage for learning, only to then be forced to search through a maze of information for the required course. No wonder drop offs were so high.”

Although this specific example may be different for the customer, the customer is now able to visualize the problem, and is now able to retrieve their own example of how their current system is negatively impacting their results today.

Do you see the power of story and getting specific?

So, if you want to see if you want your sales and marketing teams to make the value of your product feel real, instead of feel like magic, then ask them to share relevant customer story in their profile, LinkedIn messaging, email communications and sales conversations that highlights one of your unique capabilities. Because a customer story presents a clear before and after picture of owing your product, the knowledge gaps of your salespeople will immediately be exposed when the word picture is out of focus. The picture, for example, will be vague:

  • When they gloss over the before picture, and then prematurely rush to rescue the customer with your product
  • When they fail to make the before picture real by specifically showing how the customer’s current system/platform/product isn’t working today

If you can’t picture it in your head, it’s going to feel like magic to the customer.

If your sales and marketing teams aren’t providing context, then aren’t they just presenting your product and hoping that the customer can figure out how they will use it, or even worse, care?

Now Imagine What Would Happen If You Could improve the Ability of Your Sales and Marketing Teams to Articulate Value by 2x?

According to a survey by SiriusDecision, sales leaders for the past four years in a row have said that the No. 1 barrier preventing salespeople from achieving quota is their inability to articulate value. And according to a recent survey of executive buyers by Gartner, customers agree. Only 34 percent of executive buyers, for example, feel that salespeople can articulate value, because they talk too much about their product. The survey concludes that salespeople will better articulate value when they talk less about their product and instead share more customer stories. 70 percent of these executive buyers, for example, felt that “customer stories and case studies are the best way that providers can communicate differentiation that I trust.”

With so much riding on your sales team’s ability to articulate value, ask yourself if your salespeople are able to make the value of your product feel real, or does it sound like magic to the customer?

Michael Harris is CEO of sales training provider Insight Demand. You can find his bio below our notes…

Note From Kristina Jaramillo – Get LinkedIn Help

We republished Michael Harris’s article which was first published in Sales and Marketing Management Magazne, because we’ve seen first hand how sales, marketing and executive teams are failing to communicate value. Their software, technology or service benefits are vague. And, if they discuss specific results, there are no supporting stories or case studies so we buyers think it’s magic. We wonder if the results are real and if the company can produce the same results for us. But, we don’t like wondering.

Here are some additional posts that discuss communicating value and the use of case studies:

And, don’t forget, our Free LinkedIn Profile Makeover Training will provide you with even more insight into how you should be communicating value.  Click here to sign up for our profile makeover training webinar.