Enabling sales with value proposition storytelling.

Foreword: the value proposition of your products needs to be told.

Communicating a product value proposition is still a challenge for many companies, both B2C and B2C. Businesses have learned to develop their products with a strict focus on delivering value to customers.

They employ multidisciplinary teams that internally share stories, anecdotes, customer insights to inform product development. Yet, many businesses fail to bring those stories out to customers. In the banking, finance, technology sectors, products are often complex: they have many features that need elucidating.

As a result, marketing and salespeople spend more time “explaining” the product rather than helping customers see how it will solve their problems, deliver what matters and ultimately make them happy.

Storytelling is the bridge between product and customers.

What are sales stories?

How does storytelling work as a sales enablement tool? How can you help salespeople to tell relevant stories?

You do not need to go back to Aristotle or Joseph Campbell to know everything about storytelling. To translate a product value proposition into a good story that sells, you only need to know this:

  • Every story needs a hero;
  • Every hero needs a challenge;
  • Every challenge is a journey from problem to solution to result,

leading to a new status quo, better than the status ex-ante.

Good sales stories:

  • focus on the customer
  • focus on the problems to solve
  • tell how the product will solve the problems, remove frictions, relieve from pains, deliver gains

with anecdotes, examples and data-driven cases.

The building blocks are:

  • customer insights
  • mapping features to problems
  • translating lists of benefits into personal* stories.

Value proposition stories for sales enablement: a story-selling digital hub.

Market Logic Software is an advanced Marketing Knowledge Management system powered by Artificial Intelligence, serving the needs of market research departments of big global enterprises.

The solution is sophisticated: it aggregates content and data both structured and structured coming from any primary and secondary marketing data source. It connects this information algorithmically (supervised machine learning) to create knowledge graphs that users (market researchers, marketers) can interrogate with natural language questions, à la “Alexa”.

It is a technologically complex product whose users are not so tech-savvy. It is highly customizable (every on-premise installation is a client-specific solution), and expensive, sold by in-house and independent agents and marketed mostly via lite account-based marketing.

The case for a story-selling digital hub.

Issues and constraints.
DEMAND SIDE
  • Selling complex products to big business customers involves more buyer roles and stakeholders – eight to twelve people in marketing, IT, power users, budget owners -. They have different motivations, different needs and different issues. Sales messages cannot be one-size-fits-all.
  • The software is not off-the-shelf: it delivers value (speeding processes, reducing costs, improving marketing decisions) only if customized to the client environment. That needs a thorough understanding of the business customer.
  • There are not only needs and expectations to fulfill. AI-powered knowledge management is an opportunity and a threat for some stakeholders, afraid to be made redundant or lose control of their job. Product sales messages must also respond to these fears, concerns and emotions.
SALES SIDE
  • Sales pitches were too feature-centered: too much effort spent describing the product, less in explaining how it would solve specific client challenges and deliver value. Outcome: customers “lost in the product”.
  • Sometimes, sales went to the opposite extreme, using fluffy arguments, too generic to be relevant. Or, they used not appropriate customer references (i.e. stories too distant from the prospects´ context). Outcome: customers questioning “What´s in it for me?“. Wrong examples are worse than no examples.
  • Some salespeople focused too much on one only buyer role (e.g. the CMO) forgetting to sell value to the other potential influencers of the decision-making process. Outcome: barriers to sale.

Toward a solution: constraints and pitfalls to avoid.

  • Traditional B2B sales enablement used to work mainly with guidelines and sales collaterals, such as PPT, brochures, demo videos.
  • Sales guidelines face the same issues of brand books: how many people read and apply them, especially when filled with generic and not self-explanatory statements?
  • Case studies from previous successful sales or market research reports did not help to sell: salespeople did not understand how to use them to develop good arguments applicable to actual sales.
  • Sales collaterals: salespeople often print out and distribute brochures without adding their personal touch. They give out materials that do not reflect their sales pitches.

The concept: a digital hub combining data, stories and actionable items.

The digital hub should have been a tool that salespeople and agents can interrogate: based on their sales cases, they could search and find the right data, the best value elements to promote, and the stories, arguments, materials to use. A user-centered experience, not a static portal.

To match the value proposition elements to the customers to serve, we gave sales people filters to use:

  • product
  • customer industry
  • buyer roles/ departments
  • client size/budget
  • main needs so to retrieve the most relevant information, value proposition arguments and digital assets to use.
ASSETS AND ARGUMENTS
  • Arguments and stories.
  • Key customer insights.
  • Ready-to-use items: one-pagers, pictures, email templates, videos.
  • Case studies.

Plus, a bulletin with new content and fresh inspirations from the HQ to help salespeople:

  • keep their finger on the pulse,
  • learn about new features,
  • discover new insights,
  • learn from other colleagues.

How did we work to develop the sales stories hub?

1 Cross-functional and multidisciplinary.
2 Every area had to do some homework.
  • The Product Marketing team reworked its materials to link product features to expected benefits.
  • Brand marketing delivered a better understanding of buyers, diving deeper into their emotional needs and telling “day in the life of..” stories to let salespeople empathise with customer personas.
  • Data experts helped design easy-to-read customer insights dashboards and remove lengthy data presentations (PPT, PDF).
  • The customer success team collected feedback from customers to highlight pain points and frictions to address.
  • The in-house content factory unpacked sales collaterals and videos into more modular assets that salespeople could take, “mix and match”, and create their own sales packages.
  • The sales enablement team was in charge of creating and maintaining the hub, and support its adoption.

How did it work?

Navigation and filters helped sales users to retrieve data, insights and stories by: ● product, solution ● customer type, customer segment ● buyer roles ● stage of funnel ● customer primary need(s) ● type of content (explainers etc)

Content in the Hub: ● Data and customer insights, made available as mini-dashboards and one-screen summaries. ● Product explainers and selling arguments relevant to the different customer segments, vertical industries, buyer roles. ● Sample and templates for emails and social media posts. Digital assets for downloading. ● Case studies and customer stories.

Value proposition stories. Narrative patterns.

The heart of the digital hub were value proposition stories, structured according to one of the following patterns:

● PATTERN A

Problem → Needs and expected benefits → Solution → Benefits by the numbers. Written as anecdotes.

● PATTERN B (Typical B2B)

Challenger sales: show customers some huge challenges their industry is facing → need to act now and prevent or anticipate and win → our product is here to help → XYZ

● PATTERN C Customer references.

A case study relevant for that customer.