Navigating three moments of truth

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Written by Tim Riesterer on 15 October 2015

For years, sales managers have sought an answer to one simple but vital question: What separates top performing reps from lower performing ones?

The answer, surprisingly, is just as simple as the question. The difference comes down to what they say—literally, the value they project with their lips moving in front of prospects and customers. That’s what does it—that’s what gets prospects to say “yes” to making a change and “yes” to choosing you.

When you think about it, articulating value—the most important factor in reps hitting their targets, according to analyst firm Sirius Decisions—comes down to three “moments of truth” that occur in every sales cycle. And, to create a buying vision, build executive sponsorship and close more profitable deals, reps need to excel at all three value conversations:

Value Conversation #1: Create Value (Differentiation)

Objective: Defeat the status quo and differentiate your solution

Differentiation is not a new struggle for sales reps, and it can persist as a major challenge if you’re having the wrong conversation at the wrong time in the sales cycle. Typically, when reps have an engagement with a salesperson, they presume the prospect is close to buying. As a result, reps tend to ply them with product-related information about your features and benefits, assuming your prospect has already committed to doing something different.

Just because you’ve earned an engagement with a prospect doesn’t mean that prospect has decided to leave his or her status quo. You likely still need to deliver a compelling “why change” story to create urgency and uncertainty around their current situation, establishing a buying vision that changes the conversation and shifts the deal in your favor. That, in turn, will give you the foundation to win the “why you” conversation to follow.

Value Conversation #2: Elevate Value (Justification)

Objective: Secure executive buy-in and demonstrate business impact

Eighty percent of business-to-business buying decisions now require the signoff of decision makers with VP or higher titles, according to analyst firm IDC. What does that mean for salespeople? Basically, high levels of business acumen and industry knowledge are prerequisites for creating the internal sponsorship you need to win. In this kind of environment, solution presentations aren’t going to do the trick. You need to deliver a business conversation to demonstrate the business impact of your solution, building a business impact model that speaks to what matters most to executives. Doing so helps you free up the budget for an opportunity and justify your prospect’s investment in you.

Value Conversation #3: Capture Value (Maximization)

Objective: Protect your margins and maintain (or expand) deal size

Most salespeople approach negotiations as though they happen only at the end of the sales cycle when the deal moves to purchasing. They’re led to believe that that’s when their pricing falls apart. But, in actuality, the perceived value of your solution diminishes well before that, as your customers ask for things and you give them away. These value leaks often result in smaller deals and smaller margins.

To make sure you’re protecting your value, reps need to recognize that these giveaways are in fact opportunities to embrace the tension inherent to sales negotiations and win more value for your deals. Instead of letting your value leak away, try executing what I call “pivotal agreements.” These are essentially key milestones you can use to exchange value throughout the sales cycle, giving you the leverage to move the deal forward while protecting your pricing.

The three conversations above are distinct but complementary pieces of a great sales conversation—distinct because each moment has specific objectives and outcomes, complementary because they’re all adjacent parts of a winning conversation. The more salespeople can develop the skills and techniques to thrive in these three value conversations, the less you need to worry that your team isn’t excelling where it matters most: Articulating value in front of prospects and customers.


About the author

By Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer, Corporate Visions