The Creating Client Value Methodology
What makes a great salesperson, account manager or business developer? In a world where it’s hard to differentiate on the product alone, people buy from people who create value for them – through the insights they bring to the table, the solutions they create, and the help they provide around the buying process. Great salespeople can be challenging, but rather than being seen as intrusive, they are seen as trusted business advisors.
Imparta’s core sales methodology , 'Creating Client Value' (CCV), has been helping salespeople to drive revenue growth for the last decade. CCV was developed in a unique collaboration between Imparta and Neil Rackham, the author of SPIN® Selling and arguably the world’s leading researcher into sales effectiveness. It has been continuously improved since then, based on our experience with thousands of salespeople in the field and our own internal Sales Academy.
CCV concentrates on consultative selling - that space where salespeople help their customers understand their issues and opportunities in a new way and then show them solutions which closely match their needs.
CCV has generated hundreds of millions of pounds in identified incremental revenue by focusing on the process the customer goes through, rather than on a 'sales process'. Recognising where the customer is in their own process is critical in being able to support and influence them through each stage. There are five major stages in any buying decision, as shown in the following Buying Cycle:
Awareness of Needs
During this phase, the buyer moves from being happy with the status quo, to recognising the need to change an existing product, service, process or supplier. The role of the salesperson during this phase is to identify possible opportunities, and to navigate the different buyer roles, testing different “sweet spots” between the client’s needs and your capabilities. The salesperson also needs to help the customer build urgency around addressing their needs, quantify the value that a solution would create, and overcome barriers to change. In particular, that means coaching people within the target organisation to understand their own stakeholders, and to create a movement for change.
The specific outcomes we help to create during the Awareness of Needs stage of the buying cycle include:
- Building the sales pipeline though more targeted lead generation activities and a better understanding of how to navigate complex buyer roles and gain access to new opportunities;
- Reducing cycle time and increasing average account size by building a deep understanding of a client or target’s business issues and KPIs. This allows salespeople to uncover needs across the wider organisation, while allowing benefits to be expressed in the customer’s own terms to a range of stakeholders;
- Further increasing account size by understanding your own company’s capabilities at different levels, and mapping these onto the customer’s needs in a process of structured creativity;
- Improving the conversion rate from target to prospect, through questioning skills, a clear understanding of decision roles, and the ability to make a quantified case for change that covers the full range of value created for the customer.
Assessment of Alternatives
At this point the customer has decided to act and is evaluating the product or service against competing alternatives (which can include doing nothing). The salesperson or account manager needs to help the buyer(s) to identify and rank their decision criteria in order of importance. Then they need to identify how your offer is perceived vs. the alternatives, and finally to use a set of powerful strategies to position your offering in the best possible way against these criteria. This can be counterintuitive for salespeople, who often take a 'head in the sand' approach to the competition – but these strategies have a major impact on win rates.
The specific outcomes we help to create during the Assessment of Alternatives stage of the buying cycle include:
- Building trusted relationships by helping to clarify the criteria that specific customers (including purchasing departments) will use to assess your solution against those of competitors;
- Improving success rates in competitive situations (one client measured an improvement from 1 in 10 to 3 in 10) by analysing these criteria and developing strategies to deal with them using some very powerful tools;
- More specifically, delivering winning pitches by basing them on this analysis rather than a generic presentation around your strengths;
- Improving profitability and maximising margins by managing the discounting behaviour of staff and dealing better with procurement departments.
Alleviation of Risk
During this stage, the customer has narrowed their choice of preferred solution, but begins to think about the personal and business risks that may be involved. The role of the salesperson is to uncover these risks and help them find ways to address them. This can again be a counterintuitive process for salespeople, who need to become comfortable with discussing risks as well as alleviating them.
The specific outcomes we help to create during the Alleviation of Risk stage of the buying cycle include:
- Reducing the number of stalled opportunities by identifying when risks are blocking progress and uncovering risks at the strategic, tactical, political and personal levels;
- Improving the conversion rate by exploring and resolving the obstacles to a decision. This involves different skills depending on the type of risks being experienced: strategic, tactical, political and individual;
- Managing competitive threats by developing a shared, client-focused approach to business development.
Decision: Although a decision flows much more naturally when the principles of CCV are applied, there is still a need to finalise contractual agreements and it is at this stage that Procurement will most often begin to exert pricing pressure. This is not covered specifically within CCV, but in the companion material on Negotiating Client Value and Commercial Acumen.
Achievement of Results
In this final phase, the decision has been made and the solution is being implemented. The salesperson’s role will vary depending on how you handle implementation, but at a minimum it should be to prepare for a successful implementation, help to anticipate potential issues, and look for additional opportunities.
The specific outcomes we help to create during the Achievement of Results stage of the buying cycle include:
- Increasing customer satisfaction by understanding the three phases of implementation that follow a sale – the honeymoon, disenchantment and success periods – and making sure that value promised is actually delivered, and that new opportunities are identified;
- Reducing the costs of acquiring further business through increased confidence from the client;
- Identifying new opportunities by being visible during implementation, and actively managing referrals.
At this point, the buying cycle kicks off again. For more complex accounts, our Strategic Account Management programme helps Account Managers to develop robust strategies to further develop account opportunities.
Channel vs. Direct
The Buying Cycle is most obviously applicable when dealing with a direct customer or client. However even when selling through a channel (B2B2B or B2B2C), the Buying Cycle and its associated skills are highly applicable:
- There is a buying cycle going on between the manufacturer and the channel:
- A full cycle when new products, services or initiatives are being introduced ;
- A repeating “Assessment of Alternatives” when products are being promoted, sold and prioritised by the channel in the normal course of business;
- There is also a buying cycle going on between the channel and the end purchaser, and as a manufacturer you can benefit by coaching and supporting the channel to do this more effectively.
Imparta has a great deal of experience working with companies that sell through channels, and we would be delighted to explore these issues with you.