Over the last 20 years, enterprise software companies have increasingly moved towards value selling—essentially, selling customers on the business outcomes they will derive from implementing a solution, rather than on the software solution itself. Not surprisingly, this approach has proven successful time and again. Experts have told us for years (and rightly so) that customers don’t care about products. They care about the value a product can achieve for them.
This focus on value has driven several interesting changes in the way companies interact as buyers and sellers. On the buyer side, according to one study, “94% of B2B decision makers are now seeking out sales teams that exhibit specific insights into their company’s problems.” This is because a sales team possessing these insights is better equipped to understand where value will matter most and which solutions are most likely to help produce that value. And so, on the seller side, we now see sales organizations equipping their teams with Value and Industry Specialists, people whose sole job is to discuss industry trends and craft business cases that can help justify and shape the purchasing narrative for whoever is making the decision, whether it’s the CFO, a line-of-business executive, or even a procurement professional.
Sounds great—until you realize exactly how this process impacts the go-to-market organization as a whole. Industry and Value Specialists aren’t cheap or plentiful. They typically come from a strong background in consulting or industry, and most have (at minimum) an MBA. That means companies typically can only staff a small number of these professionals relative to the size of their field, and as you might expect, their time is precious. Because of their scarcity, they’re accessible only for a limited number of highly qualified opportunities—even though the entire GTM team could use their help.
So here’s the question: If effective selling hinges on demonstrating value to customers through specific business cases, why did we relegate the job of creating those expert narratives to just a few people? And why did we put this critical part of the selling process at the end of the sales cycle?
Some companies—particularly in enterprise software and consulting—are starting to get wise to this situation. Over the past three or so years, we’ve seen them shift the priority towards “front-loading” value engineering, adjusting the center of gravity to the top of the sales funnel. We call this value architecting. In contrast to value engineering which is fundamentally reactive, value architecting is designed to proactively empower account managers to identify opportunities and engage line-of-business stakeholders around driving particular business outcomes (for which a business case will be created later).
The foundation—and power—of this shift lies in de-centralizing the expertise of the value engineer so that the alignment of solutions to customer priorities and value drivers happens earlier in the cycle, for every opportunity. And what this means, of course, is that the account managers themselves (who vastly outnumber value engineers) are now tasked with developing the customer points-of-view that originate opportunities and seed the value conversation. Specialists like value engineers and industry experts are then free to leverage their unique skills in more of a quality assurance and advisory capacity, extending their reach as they help coach account managers on best practices and things they may have missed, as well as continuing to develop collaborative business cases for select high-value opportunities.
This shift is having a profound impact on sales teams that are equipped with the right tools to handle the additional load. The creation of more up-front points-of-view that touch upon customer pain points (and aspirational goals) is leading to greater engagement with senior executives, which in turn leads to higher pipeline. Quotas are being crushed, LoB customer engagement is increasing, and sales cycles are reducing. At the same time, the entire go-to-market team is elevating its business acumen by having a deeper understanding of customer needs.
Databook is playing a key role in delivering the necessary tools to innovative sales organizations eager to streamline the process of value selling and value architecting. Our powerful AI and automation technologies help reps quickly and accurately craft impactful business cases and customer perspectives, while also ensuring the most efficient use of every player on the go-to-market team. Take one of our customers as an example. In just nine months, 20 users leveraged Databook technology to beat their quotas by 150%. They then hired a single Value Engineer who also used Databook to scale out value selling to 200+ sellers globally. They are now on course to become the fastest-growing SaaS company to IPO.
The thing to remember with solution selling is that it only pays off if it’s personalized and high quality. Gathering the expertise and then distributing it to the field is critical in this payoff scenario because it reassigns the task of demonstrating value to a greater number of people. The rest depends on how you empower those people to consistently and repeatedly do the work.