The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast
The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast

Episode · 2 months ago

Positioning Value in a Tight Economy

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

We’ve done a number of episodes about what to do in a tightening economy and how to overcome economic headwinds. In this episode, we focus specifically on the need to position value early on in the sales process and how doing so can help you in more challenging sales cycles where companies are increasingly reluctant to spend. Force Management Senior Partner Tim Caito gives several helpful pointers on how to reframe your value, particularly during periods of economic turbulence. Tim’s advice covers:

  • The importance of viewing difficult economic times from the perspective of customers
  • Emphasizing the value of your expertise rather than that of your solution
  • Uncovering a buyer’s strategic priorities and reframing your solution’s value accordingly
  • Four critical questions about the customer’s decision process to ask yourself as you move deals forward

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...reframing and positioning your value around your expertise on the customers problems. What that allows you to do is influence a change in the perception on the value, the priority and the urgency of some of their initiatives. You're listening to the audible ready podcast, the show that helps you and your teams sell more faster. will feature sales leaders sharing their best insights on how to create a sales engine that helps you fuel repeatable revenue growth presented by the team enforce management, a leader in B two B sales effectiveness. Let's get started. Hello and welcome to the audible ready sales podcast. I'm Rachel Clip Miller. Today we're talking value with our own tempato. Hi Tim, hello, Rachel, how are you doing? I'm good and I'm happy that you're here today. I know that we well, it was hard, Rachel, because I've been really busy. All of a sudden are starting to put new this is on being more effective at selling. It's great. Apparently there's something going on out there that makes it really relevant. Yes, yes, and we've done several episodes on what you can do as a salesperson in a tightening economy, when there's economic headwinds. What are your action steps? So I wanted to bring you on to him to talk specifically about, uh, the importance of positioning value early, which we talked about a lot, particularly in this environment, and how that can help you in these, uh, some perhaps more challenging sales cycles. Yeah, that's that's that's good, Rachel Um. But you know, like so many of our conversations, that old saying rings in my ears all the time. What's old will eventually become new again, you know, because when you think about it, challenging economic times and a lot higher scrutiny on spending. That's not new, although admittedly, some of the circumstances we're dealing with right now that are os in those challenges are new, Um. But regardless of the causes, for a lot of organizations, the anticipation and concern about approaching economic downturns tend to translate to more conservative spending decisions. So, you know, we're hearing from all sellers everywhere that they're seeing spending decisions being more vigorously scrutinized. But you know, what I wanted to do today with you, Rachel, is what we do with a lot of those sellers is say, okay, I get that's going on, but what we need to remember, while we're seeing spending decisions more vigorously scrutinized on the customer side, they're seeing those spending decisions more vigorously sought after, more vigorously competed for and more vigorously needing to be defended on their side. So you know when, when, when you're looking at these challenge times through the lens of what our customer contexts are dealing with internally on their side, it actually reveals an opportunity, I think, for us to reframe and and position our value differently. Let me think about it this way, Rachel. Okay, lots of need across our customers organization. All that need competing for strategic relevance, priority budget. It creates a lot of new dynamics in the customers buying an approval process, and those new dynamics almost always show up as additional steps before their historic approach. They got to do some things before the way they've done it normally, and I think those extra steps provide us clues on how we can reframe and position our value early, Rachel, not rooted in the value of our solutions, but more focused on the value of our expertise at solving those big problems are customers face. Right that you make a good point, tim...

...it's yes, there's more scrutinized spending, but it's more than tighter budgets, right, it's really stepping into that seat of the customer, uh, and to remember that there are a lot of conversations going on with your customer in those accounts about spending, strategic plan and they're happening with or without you. Oh, boom, you know that that, that is so true. You know, when budgets are tight. Well, we failed to remember sometimes is there's a lot of conversations and decisions that are made out of sight from us, long before and, by the way, well after. Sellers are, you know, in the business of positioning the value of their solutions, and it's those conversations and decisions that are actually setting the stage for that rigorous evaluation we're apparently seen. You know, you think about it this way, Rachel. Let's talk specific about this. Before our solutions even get considered, those discussions and decisions are being played on on the customer side to first assess the relevance of any of their initiatives against their new strategic priorities and, by the way, they're assessing that strategic relevance across a broader spectrum of influencers and also they're comparing it against a broader range of alternatives. So it's only after that initiative is prioritized do we earn the right to potentially Um position the value of our solutions, you know. So there's a lot that's going on in advance of the value of our solutions. So what is it that we could do to help our customers understand and evaluate the strategic value and relative R O I of the initiative? That's a very impactful way to establish our value early, not on the the you know, based on the value of our solutions, but on the foundation of our expertise in solving those big problems. I've even got an example if you want to hear about of course I want to hear any example to him. Well, this one actually has played out over the course of the last couple of years. Um, it's a the customer's customer. Okay, the seller's customer was a large national restaurant chain. You know, many of our our listeners in North America would recognize this chain. I'M NOT gonna say who it was, but you know, for a lot of reasons. But in this case what the customers really focused on was cutting costs in tight times. Right. Everyone knows the restaurant business is really been tough, so cost cutting makes sense. In this case, cost cutting was all about the price per gallon a floor cleaning solution. Now, as you might imagine, the seller, they're the cost of their floor cleaning solution was much higher than their competitor. But they were focused early on on proving the value of their solution. Oh, the delution ratio for our floor cleaner is better than their's. You you don't need as much and it it cleans that much better and and it's so easy to use. Well, guess what, Rachel, I know you'll be shocked to hear this. The customer's procurement was not impressed about any of the in fact, he said nothing else matters in this conversation except price per gallon. Now the sellers knew, oh my gosh, this you know, I can't believe they're even having this big argument. You know, the difference between us and them is fifty dollars spread across all I mean it's I can't believe how hyper scrutinized this thing is. Well, guess what they did? They backed up a minute and they said, let's say analyze the customer strategic priorities. And here's what they found, Rachel. There were three big ones. This this now sational chain was focused on rebranding their...

...image. Go figure, right, attracting and retaining staff. How many times do we have we seen our weight times and restaurants go through the roof. They don't have enough people. They're right. And then workplace safety. But oddly enough, Rachel, and everything they looked at, they could not find the cost of floor cleaning solution. And the change strategic priorities, you know right. So what the sales team did is they actually moved up upstream and reframe their value relative to the customers problems that they realized they were specialists in solving, in this case workplace safety, employee attraction and retention and enhancing brand image. Now just give you the punchline here, Rachel. They won that business and they want a lot more than you know. UH, floor consolutions. Right. It was because they stop focusing on the comparative value of their floor cleaniversity competitors and they focused on helping that chain better understand their problems at a deeper, more tangible level and tied it to those big three strategic initiatives, legal and risk management. Love the data and the insight that these folks brought to workplace safety. You know, you can imagine in tough economic times, having employees and customers slip and fall turns into a five million dollar lawsuit, probably not a good thing. And they had made the connection between what's going on in the stores and workplace safety. Believe it or not, HR and store managers love the data on being able tracked and retain employees by showing them we care about you, we're focused on you know, I don't. I learned this in the in this deal, Rachel. Guess what the number one slip and fall area is in a restaurant? Oh my goodness, by the drink station. Pretty good, pretty good, that was. That was not five right right in that door that goes from the kitchen out and customers don't go there typically right that's where the staff goes. And then the last thing, even the store ops people love the insights on how they could start enhancing their brand with some other things they can do with the store which went way beyond floor cleaner. So the point of trying to make is the story, Rachel, is reframing and positioning your value around your expertise on the customers problems. What that allows you to do is influence a change in the perception on the value, the priority and the urgency of some of their initiatives. So what am I going to try and do to prove my value? Allow them to leverage our expertise to get a deeper understanding of some of these initiatives and help them understand they might actually have more strategic relevance than we realized. In this case, believe it or not, there was another initiative that wasn't getting funded, called the store experience initiative. They went from something that somebody over there is talking about, but we, you know, we got bigger fish to FRY. All of a sudden they realized, Whoa that initiative can actually help us make very tangible impacts on our top three priorities. So, you know, for that selling organization, tying their value early to their expertise, not the value of their solutions. Right, that came into play later. They first had to help their contacts improve the strategic relevancy of those initiatives. And you know, here's the real punch line to the whole thing, Rachel. Once that happened with this national chain, you know they weren't gonna put that back in the bottle. They started doing that with all their accounts routinely and they not only survived and that really tough restaurant marketplace over the last...

F years, they captured major market share, not just because of the value of their solutions, the value of what they know about solving those problems and achieving those strategic, you know, priorities. Wow, what a great story. To him, I feel like I should call this podcast like going beyond the cleaning, cleaning products, cleaning up. I'm sure we can come up with some witty on it, but that's exactly how it needs to happen, is really recognize your expertise as a salesperson and what you bring to the conversation. And we've talked about it, but I'm going to actually say the word. This is where your discovery becomes so important, uh, to ask the right questions to get beyond the cleaning products boom, and it's kind of a mindset thing, isn't it? Rachel? I'm not here to position my solutions. I know that's kind of contrary to what a lot of people believe. Their job is in the sales organization. Right. Remember what I said, what's old will become new again. Here's a nutty idea. What if we're here to focus on the customer's problems and and that the root or foundation of our value is not just on the value of our solutions, it's what we know and the experience we've had and addressing those problems and helping them achieve their strategic priorities. It's a it's it's as much a mindset shift, because the same behavior, you just said it discovery. It's still discovery aimed at a different a different thing, right. And what a great takeaway for those of you out there listening is to really think about the anecdote that Tim shared Um thinking about how you can reframe the customer conversation to better align with things that are priorities right now. Uh, in this tightening economy, and I'm sure many of you will be in your next restaurant looking to where the wet spots are on or but hopefully that a station or the kitchen door. Hey, right, so I think that you know, you said it's him. The focus here is really addressing that challenge, the strategic priority. How the customers going to attack it, with or without you, and if you want to broaden out this value conversation early, use it as you move through the deal process, your sales process, keep the customer focused on it in their buying process. There's a couple of questions that you want to make sure you're asking yourself as you move your deal forward, particularly about that decision process. Yeah, and Rachel, I think you know normal sales hygiene. It's to not only explore the need and understand it, but to explore the decision criteria, the decision process. But I think whether it's a brand new opportunity or a new opportunity in an ongoing relationship, I thinking in these challenging economic times when spending decisions are being so scrutinized, we've got to add these questions into our early planning, our early discovery right, and these are questions we can ask ourselves that actually translate the customer facing questions. But look at what that team did. I think these are four questions we need to do right. What are the business issues that are driving overall spending priorities now? Not on the initiative I'm targeting. I'm saying for that organization. What are their overall spending priorities now? And then a follow up to that, what priorities are getting funded? You know what which is? Is it workplace safety? Is it cost reduction? Is it attracting and retaining it? I don't know what it is, but you gotta find out which ones are getting um getting getting funded right now. Now. I've had just a side note on that, Rachel.

I have had a lot of sellers saying how in the world would we know that? What priorities are getting funded? You know what I say, ask anybody, because everybody knows. What most of them will say is not my projects, but those three are getting all the money right now. Well, okay, that's valuable information for me to know. Right then here's where there's two more that start pivoting the conversation. So what are the business issues driving overall spending now? What priorities are getting funded right? Not just on the initiative for the company level. Who is directly involved in making the decisions for your target initiative. Right, that's not new. We always have to be dealing with the people that are influencing the decisions that need to be made on our initiatives. But I'M gonna go one step beyond. I want to say this is a real big one. Question number four, who else will be impacted by this decision? Right, who else you know has influenced relative to the business issue that's being addressed that likely may not even know a decisions about to be made that could impact them and what they're responsible for. Maybe one of those bigger issues in my example. Okay, Rachel, remember it was procureman. The only thing that matters here is Priceberg gallant, we'll go figure. When we asked that, who else will be impacted by the decision, and we did a little bit more discovering on that. It was legal, it was risk management, it was store operations. Right. And Rachel, I don't know if this is actually true. You know if there's research on it, but I've always believed in the political landscape of our customers organization there's a rock paper scissors and I don't care if it's rock paper scissors. In my opinion, legal almost always trumps procurement. You know, in this case they asked the General Council. Hey, procurement says it's only about cost, price per gallon, right of cleaning solo days. That no, it's about the cost of a lawsuit and that's way more of the fifty grand right. So we we just gotta see this. And when you do that, you ask those four questions, what you're starting to do is understand, we use a phrase here, the collective. Yes, all of those people potentially have a vote in the strategic priorities, the urgency, the funding. They're all potential members of the collective. Yes, but only if they know what's going on. So by US moving up stream and asking those four questions, not only can help us understand some some dots, we might be able to connect between astrategic priority overall and our initiative. Right, we might also uncover some new influencers that we could bring into that collective, yes, and leverage their influence to grow the strategic relevance to the initiative. So it's our job to move upstream, understand those overall strategic priorities, connect with the influencers focused on those and reframe our value to them, not as people that have great solutions, organization that has awesome expertise in achieving those priorities. And Oh yes, we have solutions to that will help, but those only become relevant later. You know, that is a switch for a lot of selling organizations. When you ask them, what do you do? Do they describe a list of solutions they have or do they talk about the customer problems they sa off?...

And I know it seems similar. It's definitely related, but it is a different point emphasis. And early on it's that expertise on solving problems and our experience in achieving those priorities that needs to be the source of our value too. Yeah, and I think there's this realization that you might be having conversations that you haven't had before. You might be tying your solutions to different priorities that you didn't make those those connections before. You might be talking to people in the organization more than you would have previously, for example, risk management, legal, those those types of organizations, and and building that picture of the deal, as you talked about, allows you to stay focused on the right components that drive urgency and will help you when you're trying to get that signature boom right, but it's way before of that, helping them better understand the strategic relevance of the initiatives that are going on, because push gums to shove. You know, those that are deciding which of five projects get funded might not know it as well as we may. They might not know three of those projects actually have some common threads that actually we can address several of those. Yeah, so I know that there's people out there listening to this that are having some light bulb moments, Tim and, as you always provide for us, and then probably sitting there like Ah, this is why my deals aren't closing, this is why they're not moving forward, or they maybe think, Hey, I think I can reconnect the solution to some other things. So give the people tim give give them some advice or some tips for them so they can reevaluate their deals in the pipeline they have right now and evaluate them maybe how they positioned the value. Okay, and I think it's it's first like putting our inside out mentality. We use that phrase a lot, in other words, here's what we have, here's why you ought to have it, and take more of an outside in focus on the customer at a much higher level, maybe at an organization level, maybe at a large business unit level, and just ask ourselves, you know, what are their strategic priorities? And if you're dealing with people that don't have the answer to that or their answers are more technical or operationally focused, we need to continue to ask the question. Maybe some other folks right and and and the mindset I have when I'm doing that, Rachel, is I'm helping you, participating your own rescue. I know you're gonna find this hard to believe, but sometimes folks at the technical operation side aren't very good at the internal selling they frequently need to do to establish the strategic events of their initiative. Compared to we, we were really good at that. Right. I'm not on the other side of the table. I'm sitting here with you. You know, let's talk about my stuff later, but my stuff for somebody else's stuff doesn't matter. If this initiative doesn't get supported, doesn't get put as a priority, doesn't get funded, and all by the way afterwards, if somehow we slipped through upfront and it still doesn't have strategic relevance, guess what it's gonna get rated for its budget anyway. So this is important beginning in so what do I have to do? One, reframe, reframe, ask myself those four questions we just talked about a little bit ago and what I'm going to try and do at the initiative level? Right, I'M gonna try and influence the desired positive business outcomes. You know, what are you trying to...

...achieve? Oh, by the way, let me throw out some of my expertise. We've helped a lot of organizations achieve a couple of things you didn't mention, you know. I know you want to make the workplace more safe, but you know, some folks have linked this to their ability to attract new staff and hold on to them longer. Really, I did. I didn't think of those two as being connect well, that's that's part of what I'm here to do. I'm almost consulting with them. Chiefs. Go figure that, Rachel. Right, I'm going to influence the positive business outcomes, I'm going to influence the required capability achieve those and I am going to try and influence the scope and urgency of their decision process. Consider more things, which likely means bringing other people into the process to understand it at a much more urgent level than what it might be now. Once all that's done, guess what? Then the value of our solutions becomes really relevant and we can shift to that. So it's really a question of what order do we do it, and let's not take Rachel. One of our partners, John Caplan, has said for years what you do matters, what you do matters. He didn't say what you have matters, he says what you do matters. And I think as selling organizations, when it's a tough economy and decisions are being scrutinized, it's easy to kind of pull within and kind of cautiously go out there. You know, would you be willing to buy? I think it's time to be bold right leverage the experience your organization has, the expertise it has and the track record of solving those problems. They'll be at time to talk about how we do it later, but first it's about help us, excuse me, allow us, to help you reframe the value of these initiatives aligned with your strategic priorities. Now, just one little side note on this, because this is the way I think, Rachel. Let's not forget, while you're doing this early, your simultaneously improving your negotiating position on the back end. But this whole another podcast. Right. Well, work in this. It just makes it easier, right. So when you start to have these conversations, you've already aligned to everything that you need to align to. Um, what would you say, tim is the bottom line to remember for those listening right now, if they walked away with nothing else from this conversation, what would you want them to remember? Well, Rachel, you're giving me a big need to go. Um, I think I'll go back to the way it started this you know, Um, I said, you know that old saying of what's old will eventually become new again. And you know what we thought was old about positioning our value as experts on big problems that our customers have. It might not really be new again. The more I think about it, I think it's something that's just never gotten old and I think at these kind of challenging times we need to challenge ourselves to double down and realize and accept the fact we've got some value that we might not be optimizing right now. And guess what, in our world, the customers get that for free. M Hm, right, you know, helping them sort through the strategic priorities and seeing its impact in a bigger way. I've got nothing against consulting first, but you know, they spend charge a lot of money for that service and most of them don't have the expertise in our...

...marketplace that we have. We work with all kinds of organizations that have thought leaders in their organization. They've got founders that created the space. We've got a track record of performance and impact, which means we kind of know what we're talking about, and I say that should be as big a foundation for our value as the value of our solutions later on. I think that's it's it's it's just it's never gotten old, Rachel. Yeah, and it won't. It's it's basic, but so important and and when things are flying around us and our customer conversations are changing and they're not calling us back and they seem distracted, that's when, uh, it becomes so much more relevant for us to focus on the fundamentals of aligning our value to what matters most to the people were talking to. Boom. All right, hey, Tim, thank you for this conversation. I got just a little bit of passion around and Rachel. Yeah, I am gonna go get a bottle of cleaning solution and I'M gonna put it on my desk so I can remind myself that it's more than cleaning solution. Always a thank you, Tim. All right, take care. All right, and thank you to all of you for listening to the audible ready sales podcast. At force management, we're focused on transforming sales organizations into elite teams. Are Proven methodologies deliver programs that build company alignment and fuel repeatable revenue growth. Give your teams the ability to execute the growth strategy at the point of sale. Our strength is our experience. The proof is in our results. Let's get started. Visit US AT FORCE MANAGEMENT DOT com. You've been listening to the audible ready podcast. To not miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Until next time,.

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