Defining Value

Our understanding of value has not changed since we introduced the broadly applicable value equation with SPIN Selling [1]. It’s a basic and powerful concept! If the customer perceives the problem to be larger than the cost of solving it, then there’s probably a sale. On the other hand, if the problem is small and the cost high, then there’s unlikely to be a purchase. The difference between the customer’s problem and the cost of solving it is defined as perceived value.

In all major B2B sales, you must jointly with your customer explore the need further so it becomes larger, more serious and more acute in order to justify the additional cost of your solution. The broad study within SPIN Selling supports the importance of Explicit Needs — specific customer statements of wants or desires. But in the case of larger sales, Implied Needs, statements of problems or difficulties, don’t predict success.

Complexity of Value Increases

The complexity with value starts as it differs in the eye of the individual or buying influence. Decision dynamics are focused on how to make the best buying decision as a team. Those teams are made up of diverse individuals with different perspectives and approaches to achieve the best results with the lowest possible risks. This means, every buyer is different, and every buyer brings a potent mix of emotional, rational and irrational challenges to a sales encounter. From CSO Insights [2] we learn World-Class organizations see an increase in decision makers involved in complex buying decisions to 5.8 people in 2015 from a historic five-year average of 4.7.

The underlying challenge is to contribute to the growing number of individuals involved in the customer’s value calculation and ideally tackle their Explicit Need, e.g. top or bottom line revenue impact. It’s of utmost importance to connect with the key decision maker and build some loyal insiders, thereby always staying close to the decision-making process.

Value Changes Over Time with Limited Sales Influence

The buying journey is no longer linear, and there are ever changing influences impacting the buying journey. Today’s informed buyers have completed more than 50 percent of their buying journey prior to contacting a sales professional, and some research even suggests that number is as high as 90 percent.

As a result, prospects no longer engage with sales reps in order to obtain relevant information about a company and its products or services. Prospects typically search online and expect to quickly find information such as easy-to-read data sheets, comprehensive application reports, useable configuration guides, complete pricing, detailed technical information and transparent competitive comparisons.

They consult peer groups for additional insight and develop their own very unique preferences. Finally, late in the process, those buyers challenge salespeople on their very unique value/price equation, so sales needs to play catch-up.

Providing a Value Framework

But prospects still need a sales professional to guide them through the increasingly complex sales process, review or build the relevant business case and offer value-added insights. B2B buyers look for vendors who understand their pain points and are knowledgeable about their industry. Sales reps must be subject matter experts in their field and should be able to convey that information to prospects in a clear and concise manner.

They should also be able to provide perspective on the market and help the prospects interpret and apply this information to their own situation and challenges. Sellers will bring in additional resources as needed, deepening the understanding and broadening the perspective while clearly defining the Explicit Needs. Bringing in appropriate experts helps build credibility and correlates with findings from CSO Insights, where World-Class organizations see an increase, less drastic than the buyer side, where 4.4 people are involved in 2015 compared to 4.1 as the five-year average. [2]

Our value framework requires everyone to align their messages and stories. This starts from the CEO all the way down to the service desk, and of course all along the dynamic sales process. Next comes the value confirmation for each buyer role once the purchased products and services are delivered. They are the key to long-term satisfied customers and are crucial to developing future business.


[1] Neil Rackham: SPIN Selling (Situation – Problem – Implication – Need –Payoff) Book ISBN 0-07-051113-6

[2] CSO Insights: Inside the Decision Dynamic: People

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