For 15 years, Ecosystems has helped organizations differentiate their products and services by quantifying and communicating business value. And in this time I’ve noticed the biggest challenge with value-selling is often not how to get started, but rather how to sustain.
There are always progressive sales representatives who can quickly adopt a new value-selling protocol and wield it effectively. There are always ‘must win’ deals with top-down management pressure to ensure a value proposition and business case are front and center. (This is not to say that all value propositions are created equal. Read more here.)
But how do we establish a value-selling program with durability? How do we alter the DNA of a sales engine and improve performance at the core? I have learned that integrating value-selling with Salesforce.com (or similar CRM systems) is not a mechanical option to approaching these challenges, but a foundational decision that governs the possibilities and impact of the ultimate sales process.
The initial move to Salesforce
To truly mainstream value-selling, program resources must be easily accessible by the field. Sales representatives cannot be forced to access yet another system. Another portal. Another username and password with 60-day expiration. The smallest of obstacles can submarine sales adoption.
Additionally, the content needs to be relevant and align to active customer conversations. Finally, the impact of value-selling must be measurable and tie back to individual sales deals. Nothing offers more piercing clarity. Did we win or lose?
Triangulating on these priorities set a technical direction for Ecosystems that is reflected in four generations of progressive integration with Salesforce. Cradle to grave, everything from creating, refining and sharing business cases; publishing customer deliverables and archiving wins for learnings and reuse, is all done without leaving Salesforce.
As expected, IT and sales enablement stakeholders fawned over this new paradigm – an enterprise value-selling platform that is activated (versus installed) within an existing instance of Salesforce. What was not anticipated was the degree to which a technical innovation became a catalyst for transforming the larger sales process.
Transforming a sales process
With each advance of our integration with Salesforce, I realize this tie is not about efficiencies, but synergies. The following are six examples of sales process transformations I have seen organizations experience by intersecting value-selling and CRM platforms.
The top 10% of the sales force does not need improved value-selling abilities to be effective. But how do we get the balance of the field at the same level? As pedestrian as it sounds, the direct (single-sign-on) integration with Salesforce has led to a 25% increase in active value-sellers for our clients. And by piggy-backing on the Salesforce user model, everyone involved in a sales opportunity has automatic access to all value-selling artifacts for that opportunity. Additionally, effective sales managers audit all opportunities for which value-selling is (and is not) being utilized, ensuring there is no misalignment between value-selling efforts and strategic deals.
2. Re-leveraging ‘Winnings’ plays
Integrating with Salesforce empowers the organization to amplify the impact of value-selling. Too often, business cases and value messaging that led to key wins are lost in the ether, when they should be archived as learnings for the next generation of related opportunities.
3. Intelligent posting of deliverables to active opportunities
Rather than requiring the time investment for sales representatives to gather relevant deliverables for opportunities, best-practice organizations automatically distribute value-selling deliverables to all active deals based on user-defined attributes (e.g. post a certain business case to all telecom deals, post a streamlined business case for all deals under $50k, post a targeted deliverable for all deals with ‘commit’ status).
4. Continuity despite churn
The revolving doors of a sales organization should not bring sales progress to a halt, or saddle customers with reeducating a new representative. When Salesforce serves as the central archive for all value-selling deliverables, administrators can pass ownership of customer artifacts from one representative to another.
5. Past Value Delivered studies
Through archiving all customer deliverables, progressive account teams earn the right to sell more by re-leveraging business cases used during the sales process in a post-sale capacity to track the actual business value recognized by the customer.
6. Tracking the impact of value-selling
Flagging value-selling activities for individual deals empowers organizations to track the program adoption and impact in terms of close rates, deal size, sales cycle duration, and discount rates.
As it is the most relevant integration point for the majority of Ecosystems customers, I chose to focus on the synergies of tying value-selling to Salesforce. I have seen how this marriage ensures sales resources are not left to be discovered. Rather they are intelligently pushed to the field in the context of specific sales opportunities. And nothing has a bigger effect in putting value-selling on the critical path than alignment with deals.
I have observed organizations experience similar benefits through integrating with other CRM platforms, marketing automation (e.g. Eloqua), order/revenue tracking, etc. Regardless of the specific technology, effective assimilation of value-selling with existing platforms not only avoids the proliferation of systems, but can predetermine the success (and limits) of the ultimate sales process.