How to Cater Value to Meet the Decision Makers’ Needs

By Julie M. Hansen

You want to match up value to the needs and interests of your sales prospect. For example, although you would certainly want to talk to members of the administrative team about how fast a feature can help them accomplish a task, this message won’t wow the executive members of your audience. You need to further tailor your value proposition to the people who will be in your audience, including:

  • Problem owners: These are typically end users — the people within the prospect’s company who are living with the problem and likely will be using your product or service. Although they have some interest in larger organizational goals like increasing profit, expanding globally and so forth, they’re typically concerned about more direct and immediate goals that impact how they do their jobs. For example, problem owners are looking for your presentation to answer the following questions:

    • “How does your product or service solve my problem?

    • “Will it make my life easier or more difficult?”

    • “Will it help me do my job better (faster, more accurately, with less supervision, and so on)?”

  • Problem solvers: These people typically are affected by the problem secondhand but tasked with the challenge of seeking out a solution. They’re likely your point of contact within the organization. Although not directly affected by the problem, they must find a solution that works for both the end users and the decision makers. Therefore their concerns usually center around validating their recommendations, avoiding mistakes, and implementing easily. For example, problem solvers will want to know things like:

    • “Can your product do what you say it can?

    • “Will the end users adopt it?”

  • Decision makers: In a significant sized deal, the person writing the check is often a high-ranking manager or C-level executive. With multiple responsibilities and interests, she is less concerned with the specifics of how you’re going to achieve something and more interested in the financial viability of the solution and how it impacts the organization as a whole. For example the decision maker’s concerns include:

    • “How does this solution compare to other priorities within our organization?”

    • “How does this help me increase market share by 10 percent this year?”

Consider the following example of how you can tailor value for these three types of decision makers using a product that as a salesperson you’re probably only all too familiar with: a contact relationship management (CRM) system.

An insurance company went from 200 agents in three states to 1,500 agents across the country in the past year due to recent acquisitions. About half of the agents have their own CRM system, but there is no consistency across the group or easy way for managers to track progress.

Although the company has more agents, the revenue per agent has been steadily declining at the rate of 8 percent year to date, and the length of the average sales cycle has grown from three months to nearly four. Management attributes this decline in sales to the adjustments taking place from the acquisition, but also acknowledges that the inability to track deals and monitor close rates is probably responsible for half of that loss.

Even though you’re still selling the same solution (a CRM system), you must tailor value to fit the interests of each decision maker to make sure your message hits home.

  • The problem owner: These are the salespeople who are experiencing declining sales. If you talk exclusively about how your system can give manager’s greater visibility into every deal in the organization’s pipeline, you’re not going to win over the sales team. The team members probably aren’t going to be wildly excited about being more accountable to their managers either. What will excite them is how your product can help them close more deals. Some of them don’t even have a CRM system and will be understandably concerned about things like, “How much work is this going to take for me to get up to speed? Is this going to make my life easier or harder?”

    Problem owner value proposition example: “Within an hour we can get you set up with complete mobile access to all of your information so that you can start closing deals at least 12 percent faster, based on what the sales team at XYZ experienced.”

  • Problem solvers: These are the managers who are concerned with making numbers as well as spending their time wisely. They have a lot of new salespeople to keep track of and new territories to cover with this acquisition; therefore, they’re spending much more time on the road, which means less time for going over long reports or troubleshooting.

    Problem solver value proposition example: “We help you increase revenue by 4 percent by reducing closing time from four to three months as we were able to do with XYZ. This gives you 10 percent more time to lead and train your new team and full visibility so you can spend your time on areas that you can best impact.”

  • Decision makers: This group is interested in the bigger picture: turning around sales, fast. Having just invested in other companies, they have a great deal of pressure to make this work and getting all team members on the same page is a key goal.

    Decision-maker value proposition example: “We can help you reach your goal of aligning your teams quickly and increasing sales revenue by 4 percent within six months based on the numbers you provided us and what we were able to achieve with XYZ.”

As you can see, value is in the eye of the beholder. Although the product or solution is the same in all three cases, the value proposition is different when you take into account what is important to each type of decision maker.