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The value imperative in B2B sales

Shankar Ganapathy
May 24, 2021

B2B sales for the most part is centered around the seller executing in a certain cadence. This makes sense as the seller is the primary custodian of revenue generation. But there is a new challenge for B2B companies - the difficulties modern buyers face in their buying journey, and its influence on the b2b sales process, methodology, and playbook. 

The New Reality - B2B buyer preferences

In the new world order, there are no customers; everyone is a buyer, including your most successful customers. 

Somewhat controversial statement but hear me out. Saasification of technology solutions has empowered modern buyers to take a more methodical approach to B2B partnerships. This also gives them the power to exit the relationship at any time, often with very minimal damage. At the same time, the buying cycle has become a lot longer but face-time with sales reps has reduced drastically; this was true even before the pandemic influenced work from home, but it has greatly accelerated the decline. The buying group has become larger as well and there are more decision-makers involved in a purchasing decision. Depending upon the size of the deal, there could be anywhere between seven and 19 stakeholders. In fact, understanding and onboarding new buying stakeholders into the process is one of the most convoluted parts of the b2b sales process. And we have to trust our buyer champion(s) to execute for us.  

Another challenge is from the direct and indirect competitors who are aiming for the same piece of pie, and constantly pitching your buyers, and promising the moon. To add to this, even within the buying group, or a larger cross-functional team at your buyer’s end, there will be detractors to the buying decision. In fact, nearly half of all buying efforts result in no decisions, and the no-decision drivers can range from budget issues to insufficient ROI, business and/or technical risk, etc. 

It's not as if sales leaders don’t realize this problem - millions of dollars are being spent on helping the seller with better enablement, opportunity management, account planning, or other sales effectiveness focussed investments. While this helps definitely the seller, it relies on the premise that sales effectiveness translates to buyer experience. But is this really happening? Not really, according to the latest research by Salesforce; 73% of business buyers felt most sales interactions are transactional. Modern B2B buyers are consistently overwhelmed and they prefer buying from vendors who make it extremely easy to buy from them. 

So, how do sales teams adapt and thrive in this new reality? 

The answer to this question revolves around prioritizing what buyers care for the most - value and measurable outcomes.

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The value imperative

There was a time when vendors could get away with selling metrics, which buyers would buy at face value. But the modern buyer demands more. They want to know what are the outcomes you can impact, how, when, what is the investment needed, and what’s the ROI. In this new reality ‘value’ has taken center stage, and it is the primary connection between the b2b sales process and the b2b buying process. 

The job of buying has also become the responsibility of business leaders (with IT and Procurement taking a back seat). They are under immense pressure and scrutiny to show (at least 10x) ROI from their buying decisions. Whether you do it or not, your buyer will measure the ROI from your solution in terms of tangible strategic and operational benefits and how it impacts their bottom line. 

How you sell and deliver ‘value’ will ultimately become the core engine to build trust and win new customers. This is not a new concept - valued-based selling methodology has been around for a while; time-to-value is an important business metric for post-sales, and there are a lot more roles in the revenue teams like solution consulting, deployment planning, value measurement, etc. The opportunity is around how all of this comes together for your buyer across the lifecycle of the partnership. Our premise is that it is customer ‘value’ that will tie marketing, sales, implementation, and customer success together to deliver an integrated buying experience.

Operationalizing value-based B2B customer relationships

To understand how you operationalize value-based relationships, look no further than how you buy things in your personal life. You can today buy anything from a TV to a Tesla car to even a house online. These industries have invested significantly in making it extremely easy for their buyers to discover, evaluate, purchase, and get serviced. In many ways, value has become the centerpiece for consumer buying. However, the B2B buying experience is a lot more complicated - it involves more deliberate decision-making by a wider group of stakeholders with a lot more pressure on measurable value realization.

A lot of SaaS companies sell on the promise of real business impact, but very rarely do they follow through. But that trend is changing with more scrutiny on SaaS spend and the need to measure ROI. This also means that SaaS companies need to operationalize how they sell and deliver value. Here is a framework that we have seen some of the most progressive companies follow in order to transform their B2B relationships to revolve around value:

Buyer Engagement = Discover Value + Prove Value + Deliver Value + Measure Value 

  • Buyer Engagement: It is all about your buyers and the need to make it extremely easy for them to evaluate, purchase and derive value from your services
  • Discover Value: Enable interactions that help you identify and define potential value for your buyer and create a plan to get there
  • Prove Value: Make it extremely easy for your buyers to evaluate and purchase your services. 
  • Deliver Value: Partner with your buying teams across personalized milestones in a jointly developed roadmap to buyer success
  • Measure Value: Unify all the buyer behavior data across their lifetime engagement to make it easy for future buyers to understand what has worked for others

The new insight here is that a lot of this needs to be thought through from the lens of your buyers and not just your sellers. Your seller’s role itself will shift to someone who discovers and delivers value.

So, how do you operationalize value to differentiate your buying experience? And how do you decode the buyer journey intelligence to quantify your value proposition? 

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