Let’s start with a fact: Many founders of software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies come from the product/technical side. They’ve spent their careers building products to solve problems. Yet that skillset doesn’t always translate into being able to quantify the impact of solving those problems.
Quantifying the impact is creating value.
William “Skip” Miller’s book Selling Above and Below the Line explores this discrepancy further. The idea is that you sell “above the line” to executives who are looking for results, and you also sell below the line to users who need specific functionality to perform their tasks. Both types of sales are necessary, but many early-stage companies don’t know how to move beyond the functional/product discussion and elevate into the value/results arena. They spend their time pointing out what the product does, not necessarily what value it creates.
Today I’d like to share some stories and provide a simple framework for creating your first value-selling model.
Let’s start back in 2008 when I joined Marketo*, and we were quite a small company. We had just 27 customers, and our go-to-market team was an army of two AEs, one SDR, and one SE/post-sales person. We also had two marketing people, one of them being Jon Miller, co-founder and the VP of marketing (no relation to Skip Miller mentioned above).
While we had some solid messaging (“insanely easy to use”) and incredible marketing content, our sales story was mostly product-focused and lacked value messaging. Our demos showed off what the product did – create landing pages and forms, create smart campaigns, score leads, and provide some useful data on how you spent your marketing dollars.
After a few weeks of listening to the SDR and the AEs talk with prospects, I heard different messaging and different qualifications from all of them. I approached Jon with an idea: Why don’t we create a simple message framework that talks about value? We’ll use it to train new hires and give it to our current team to streamline how they qualify and message to the next batch of customers.
I gave it a first shot and created ANSA, a framework of how Marketo helped customers. ANSA stood for automate, nurture, score, and analyze.
Going a step deeper, Marketo helps marketers:
- Automate manual tasks and become more productive
- Nurture leads until they were ready to buy
- Score leads for sales to focus that team’s time effectively
- Analyze marketing spend to see what’s working
Jon loved the idea, but even with my best effort, he didn’t think my articulation of the value we delivered was elevated enough. As a product marketing expert, he offered to spend a couple days with the rough framework to improve it. And boy did he – he saw my hand and raised it!
Jon came back the next week with something he called CANPP. Marketo helps marketers do the following:
- Convert more leads (anonymous to known, known to qualified, et cetera)
- Automate manual campaigns and become more productive
- Nurture leads and know when they are ready to buy
- Prioritize leads to help sales spend time where they’re likely to close deals
- Prove the value of marketing spend and become more efficient with it
With the help of our pre/post sales leader, we sprang into action to build out a format. We took Jon’s five value props and created a one-page document. That document listed each of the value props across the top columns, with supporting points for each below. We completed each column using this formula:
Value Prop #1 (ie Convert)
- Message arc: Essentially a storyline that connected how a product function could solve a business problem
- 3-4 qualifying questions to ask a prospect to understand their pain/problem
- Outcomes: What results could a user expect in using our product (more productivity, increased revenues etc.)
- Measurement: Here’s where we quantified real-world results Marketo had delivered, in either dollars or percentages
These came together quickly. Despite being light on measurement, we did have some data, but more importantly, we recognized the need to start collecting this data moving forward.
Another way to think about fleshing out your framework, as we did above:
- You have a technical product that performs functions, and those functions solve pain points.
- Create a library of those pains/problems.
- Visualize the best-case outcome if you solve the pains – this is the value proposition.
- Apply metrics (again in dollars or percentages) to justify your value prop. If you don’t have this info yet, you’ll likely need to use industry data.
You just created a basic framework for value selling inside your organization.
I’ll close with a caveat: This is a simple model, not to be confused with the type of messaging model that a firm like Force Management would help you create. But for an early-stage company looking to get a leap on value messaging, it’s surprisingly easy to get started.
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*Denotes a Battery portfolio company. For a full list of all Battery investments, please click here.