Selling to the CxO: Building a Rock Solid, Irresistible, Powerful Proposition
By Daniel J. Adams
Selling to senior executives is a terrific challenge.
Most often you are facing barriers to entry before you can even
think about deploying appropriate sales strategies. Gaining access to
a CxO mandates that you tackle the anticipated question,: “Why
should I talk to you, much less buy from you?”
Answering this question effectively requires thoughtfulness and
advance preparation. You
need something in your sales arsenal called a Value
Proposition: A value proposition is not a thing, like a product or
a service. It’s a sales message that shows that you thoroughly
understand the following:
customer is and the exact nature of his or her headaches
product or solution can eliminate or prevent those headaches and
provide desired benefits
in which you are uniquely qualified to do this
why a customer would want to spend more for this uniqueness
credible proof that you can do it
Preparing and internalizing an
effective value proposition is one of the very first things a rep
should do upon joining a company. Preferably, the value proposition is
developed in conjunction with senior executives and corporate
marketing. It should take into account the overall corporate strategic
direction. Everyone from the person who answers the phones to the CxO
to the janitorial staff should know the company’s value proposition.
Although you must memorize it, you will never use your value
proposition in its entire memorized form with a customer. Rather, you
customize it to each customer based on his or her specific needs and
role.. A powerful value proposition has five components:
This first value proposition
component answers the customer question, “How can you help me?”
The promise is your high-level commitment to an account to help it
succeed. Typically, your commitment will be to help the customer
increase profits, reduce costs, increase revenue, increase efficiency,
improve quality, or strengthen its market position. Promises are not
the same as benefits. If you were selling refrigerators, your promise
would not be to keep a family’s food at a consistent forty degrees
Fahrenheit; your promise would be to help maintain everyone’s good
health and improve the quality of the family’s life. If you were
selling medical billing software, your promise would not be the
software’s ability to print labels at top speed; it would be to
reduce billing costs and improve the hospital’s bottom line.
component of your value proposition answers the customer question,
“What services, products, and solutions allow you to make the
promise to me?” The enablers are what you offer to fulfill the
For example, if your promise to
the customer is, “I can help you increase revenue,” the enablers
explain the tools, solutions, and services you offer that will permit
you to fulfill that promise. If your promise is related to how you
will help an organization increase its revenue and reduce its costs,
the logical question is, how and with what? The enabler may be a
software program, service, or a suite of widgets. It could also be
technology, consulting, implementation and maintenance services,
financial services, and so on.
The Unfair Advantage:
This third component of your
value proposition answers the customer question, “What makes you
different from your competition?” Your unfair advantages are the
capabilities, services, and offerings unique to you or your company
that your competitors consider a threat to their success. An unfair
advantage — such as having the largest market share, the best
product, the best reputation among buyers, or the longest experience
in the field — alters the playing field and gives you a distinct
advantage. If you think long and hard, you will uncover several
advantages you can capitalize on.
Once you determine your unfair
advantage, you need to elevate it as a key buying criterion for all of your customers. If
it’s not a key buying criterion now, you need a strategy to convince the customer that this should be a
key buying criterion. For instance, let’s say you are an insurance agent and your unfair
advantage is the financial reputation of your company. You might say,
“Mr. Customer, whether or not you buy from my company is irrelevant.
As you analyze the different offerings, you need to consider the
long-term viability and reputation of the companies. Are they going to
be there in the future to take care of you?”
The Justification of Value:
Me The Money! Having one or more unfair advantages is
not enough. In an advanced value proposition each unfair advantage
also includes a justification as to why the customer should invest
more in the selling price (initial investment) than that of your
A true superstar assumes that the
initial investment for her solution will be significantly higher that
that of her competitor. She
is armed with the sales tools and knowledge to specifically justify
that difference. In fact,
the true superstar wants her initial investment to be higher than her
competition because it speaks to value.
Most customers associate quality with cost.
Let’s say, for example, that you sell cars and one of your unfair
advantages is that your cars have a higher trade-in value, on average,
than your competition. You would want to walk your customer through
the business case for investing more upfront than he would spend for
another auto. This is called selling value!
is the fifth component of a value proposition. It provides a response
to the customer statement, “I don’t believe you — prove it!”
The proof attests to the fact that you can do what you just said you
would do. You may prove your case to the customer using industry
ratings or by demonstrating market share.
Without question, the very best proof comes in the form of referrals from
satisfied customers, quotations in the press, or case studies showing
how you improved quality or increased revenue for another account
similar to your target account.
Constructing a rock-solid value proposition is not that difficult. Your
efforts will be rewarded with easier access to CxOs and greater
success selling to them. Just
remember the five components and corresponding questions summarized
below, and you’ll be well on your way.
Value Proposition Components
Can You Help Me?”
Are The Arsenal Of Services, Technologies, Products And
Solutions That Allow You To Make The Commitment To Me”
Makes You Different Than Your Competition?”
Justification of Value:
Why Should I Invest More For Your Offering Than The
Do Not Believe You, Prove It”
Good Luck, and Close ‘Em!
Read other articles and learn more
about Daniel J. Adams.
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and