A hot prospect has demoed your software or product, and now you’ve got Sales talking with the decision-makers about an enterprise solution that will be your biggest yet. You find out they’ve narrowed down their decision to you and two of your competitors. This should be a slam dunk—you just spent the last three months doing market research and sharpening your Unique Value Proposition (UVP), and you know your team now clearly communicates the unique value you provide.
But the sales process drags out weeks and months. . . and the prospect is asking for discounts and extra customization at no additional charge. You’re crunching the numbers, trying to figure out how to keep the deal alive and asking yourself why you’re stuck competing on price again. And then you find out the prospect chose a competitor.
What went wrong? Your UVP was strong. Your sales team was at the top of their game. What happened?
As it turns out, UVP isn’t as important as we think it is. CEB research surveyed 3,000 B2B buyers across 36 brands and 7 industries and revealed that only 14% of buyers perceive enough meaningful difference between brands’ business value to be willing to pay extra for that difference. Unless you’re selling something truly revolutionary—solving a problem that has not yet been solved in any way, shape, or form—your UVP is pretty much the same as your best competitors’ UVPs. Although there are subtle differences, your prospects are saying they’re not willing to pay for them. So you end up competing on price.
Only 14% of buyers saw enough difference between suppliers to be willing to pay a higher price for it. (Image Source)
What’s the solution? It’s not that UVP doesn’t matter at all. B2B buyers demand ROI—you have to deliver at least as much business value as your competitors do, in order to get into the consideration set. So all the work you put into developing your UVP isn’t wasted.
Personal Value Beats Business Value
But while nearly all B2B companies focus on business value and treat B2B buying as a rational decision process, the reality is that people are making these buying decisions—people who have emotions and who are concerned about things like getting a promotion, being respected by their peers, and not making mistakes. They fear risk. They want admiration. They are driven by the desire to be successful.
According to CEB’s research, over 90% of the B2B buyers surveyed would either put off the purchase indefinitely or would buy from the lowest-price supplier in their consideration set. If you’re going to consistently win deals profitably, you need to address personal value at least as much as you address business value.
Buyers were much more likely to purchase from the supplier that demonstrated personal value. (Image Source)
There are two sides to personal value—a positive and a negative. If you tackle both in your marketing and sales materials, you’ll build a strong case that will motivate buyers. Let’s look at each of these in detail.
Address Personal Benefits
The positive side of the personal value coin is personal benefits—how your product or service benefits your prospects personally. While every individual will have his or her own goals and desires, you’ll want to identify two or three that are shared by most of your prospects so you can focus on these in your marketing. (If you break out different market segments or personas and market separately to each, you have the freedom to get more specific with the personal benefits you highlight.)
To identify the personal benefits that will resonate with your prospects, you’ll need to do a bit of research. The easiest way to learn this info is to set up brief phone interviews with current clients or prospects who fit your ideal client profile. Here are a few questions you can ask that will give you insight.
- What is important to you as a