Show... Then Tell (with Win Themes)

By Rachel Cavallo on Dec 1, 2017

The value proposition. It’s at the core of everything we sell, right? Value propositions come in many varieties, but essentially they are the statements that say, “You need what we have to offer, and we are uniquely positioned to sell it to you.” We’ve seen the statistics that tell us how important clear value propositions are to buyers… But is the value proposition statement alone enough?

Show Versus Tell

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a writing workshop for parents of young writers. During this workshop, an author spoke about the importance of “showing” your audience what a character is thinking or feeling versus “telling” them outright. Apparently, many kids (and probably adults, too) tend to write things like “I was very scared” versus something more descriptive to engage the reader like…  “My knees were shaking, and I could barely breathe.” It got me thinking about how it is much more powerful to feel and experience a value proposition than to just read it or hear it in a presentation. 

Crafting Sales Messages

When we work with our clients on crafting sales messages for their customers, we start by encouraging clients to take their messaging beyond the singular value proposition statement. Generally, the value proposition is a statement that is very “we” focused – why our product is the best and why the customer should select us… 

To go beyond this level of thinking, we get our clients to think about the motivations of the individual decision makers and each criteria (rational or emotional) that might drive them to make a decision. Next, we ask our clients to think about their competitors and what value propositions they are offering the customer. Once we more closely examine these factors, we revisit the value proposition to ask, “it is enough?”

Generally, we need more. We need messages that will de-emphasize competitive strengths, counter competitive tactics, appeal to the motivations of the people who will be making the decision, and demonstrate that our offering is worth what we are asking for it. We brainstorm a list of these messages, and then we select the top 3-5 that will have the most significant impact. We call these win themes – they are more than just “we” messages – they are broad themes that set us apart across the entirety of our sales landscape. These win themes form the basis for how we execute our sales strategy.

Messages Come to Life

What’s important to note is that win themes are not just re-branded value propositions. This is where we bring the messages to life. Win themes are campaign mantras, rally cries, and generally, they are the last soundbites we want to resonate in our decision makers’ heads before they make a decision. So, how do we do this? Like the author who spoke at the writer’s workshop said about writing, we have to show our clients our win themes before and as often as we tell them. Especially for a customer who doesn’t know us, we have to show them our value before they are going to believe what we say or what we write on paper. 

So, what does this mean, really?? It means our actions speak louder than our words. It’s who we introduce in the sales process, it’s how we conduct customer meetings, it’s what information we share and what we request during the sales process, it’s what our sales materials look like, it’s how our presentations are shaped, it’s how our deals are structured, and it’s the key messages that everyone on our sales team speaks and embodies throughout the sales process.

Some Examples...

Consider that you are selling against an incumbent competitor. You know that the customer is looking for more updated technology, and you know that both you and your competitor provide similar offerings, but you also know that your competitor rarely offers up these leading edge solutions to their existing accounts… they don’t like to rock the boat, so they keep their current customers on outdated platforms unless the customer requests an upgrade. In fact, you know that this customer doesn’t currently have your competitor’s latest offerings. To add to this, you know that your key decision makers are technologically savvy and are interested in transforming their workplace into a more modern space. In this sales landscape, you will want to design a win theme focused on keeping your customers current with the latest technology whenever they are able to take advantage of it. More than just stating this, you may want to introduce the customer to your head of product innovation who can take the customer through your roadmap. You may also want to build an upgrade plan into your deal structure. Moreover, you’ll want to provide your customer with insights and lessons learned that you have gained over the years as you’ve brought your latest and greatest offerings to your existing accounts.

In another example, consider that you sell a service that could be limited or expansive based on the scope of what the customer wants to do. In this scenario, you know that your competitor generally beats you on price, because they promise the world to their customers even though the fine print really only offers a slimmed down version. If customers select your competitor, you know that they will ultimately have to buy costly add-on services to achieve their objectives. In this case, you’ll want to introduce a win theme about the value of knowing your total costs up front and why your customer should closely examine the fine print of each offer to ensure that the solution they purchase initially will meet their needs. During this sales process, you’ll want to show them a business case that projects their total project costs and what potential overruns they might encounter. You’ll want to teach them how to thoroughly examine project assumptions and/or “the fine print,” and you’ll want to teach them what questions to ask all of the vendors proposing on the project. You might even introduce them to reference customers who can vouch for how you came in on time and on (or under!) budget, and how you delivered what they expected the FIRST time.

In a final example, if you know that you have a customer that has never used a product like yours and you suspect that they will need extensive customer support, you’ll want to introduce them to their support team early in the process. Beyond the introduction, you might want to find ways to demonstrate how seamlessly your customer will be able to get the support they need to optimize their use of your product… perhaps a site visit or the ability to listen to a few recorded customer service calls. Further, depending on the importance of the customer and the competitor’s ability to offer service and support, you may want to consider offering premium support lines or dedicated support personnel above and beyond what your competitors might offer. You may even want to facilitate an executive briefing between your head of support and a relevant counterpart in the customer’s organization.

Win themes require a little more depth and creativity than the value proposition statement, but they can be extremely valuable in “showing” your value rather than merely stating it. Like a proficient novelist, with the right win themes, you can engage a customer and keep them spellbound throughout the sales process… creating an experience that demonstrates your value and enables key decision makers to fully embrace all that you have to offer.

Interested to see the concept of win themes in action? Take a look at this case study, which highlights a messaging project for one of our hospitality clients.

Interested in learning how we can make win themes work for you? Contact us to start a conversation.

Rachel Cavallo

Written by Rachel Cavallo

If there’s anyone who understands how sales people tick, it’s Rachel Cavallo. Rachel specializes in strategies that drive sales forces to adopt real change… the kind of change that produces results. She has managed many sales force transformations, helping sales leaders realign organizations and define new selling models, as well as designed and delivered sales training, coaching, and change management programs. At Symmetrics Group, Rachel is loved for her creativity and big picture thinking – she has a knack for crystallizing complex concepts into a single picture with high impact messages.

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