Earlier this month Mereo founder and President, Jay Mitchell, was featured in the world renown sales and marketing publication, Top Sales Magazine. See the article below, and download the complete magazine here.
I’m often asked what the No. 1 sales-ready asset is that marketing teams need to provide their sales channels in a B2B sales cycle. I never hesitate in my response: a solid client value story (case study). And I’m not the only one who thinks this — the proof is in numbers:
Holger Schulze, group owner of the 50,000-member B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn, surveyed their audience and found customer testimonials and case studies are considered the most effective content marketing tactics, identified by 89% and 88%, respectively.
What Makes an Engaging Client Value Story?
A powerful client story has all the ingredients a sales professional needs to prove to their customer that they can deliver on their promises:
- Big picture problem
- Business, financial and personal pains for the buyer
- Solution highlights (with differentiators!)
- Demonstrable gains
- Compelling client quote validating the problem was solved
- A story that resonates with buying audience
While some of the elements above may be lacking (or absent) in too many case studies, the more alarming concern we see with companies around the world is the void of client value stories altogether.
According to Forrester Research, 78% of executive buyers claim salespeople do not have relevant client examples or case studies to share with buyers.
All too often the sales team is begging for this invaluable sales-ready asset (or more of them), while marketing is unable to secure enough client introductions from the sales and service teams to create them. And so the never-ending cycle of finger-pointing continues.
Client value stories are the ultimate proof point a prospect needs in their buying journey.
Why are Client Value Stories so Important?
- Stories give buyers the sense of calm needed to start navigating their current situation. When overwhelming situations paralyze them from taking action, a client story can get their thoughts focused and doubts relieved — “Other organizations have been here as well and have successfully overcome. We can too…if we just get started.”
- Stories give buyers a point of reference for initiating trusted advisor engagement. We all know prospects turn to their peers in troubling times, as 84% of B2B businesses initiate the buying process with a referral (Edelman Trust Barometer). A client story is the second best option in prospecting when a seller does not get introduced directly through a referral. Seeing a trusted peer experience success can give way to earned trust with the seller.
- Stories give buyers confidence in justifying the decision to themselves (emotion) and to their broader buying committee — boss, peers, etc. (logic). A study by Gartner revealed that 70% of executive buyers agree “client stories and case studies are the best way that providers can communicate differentiation that I trust.”
Client value stories are an opportunity for marketing and sales to unite in their joint go-to-market efforts. If you are a marketing leader, make client testimonials a priority on your team’s task list. If you are a sales leader, engage your marketing leadership in a dialogue about why client value stories are a fundamental building block to revenue performance. But do not stop there — foster introductions to some initial clients that can get the momentum going for your marketing partners.
How to Craft a Winning Story
Let’s start with the basics. We define a client value story as an ideal mechanism for demonstrating the value prospects can uniquely gain from your solution.
What is this “mechanism”? Our team has found the optimal way to organize and present a client value story. The format flows from left to right, showing a contrasted view of the pains the client was experiencing before your solution and the gains the client is capturing with your solution. The “bridge” from the pains to gains is your solution and specifically the differentiators that only you can deliver. See an example below of one of our own value studies.
Let’s dig further into each of the essential pieces of the story:
- Your client’s PAINS are laid out on the left and are crafted to re-engage the emotional fraught your buyer felt when they came to understand their pains.
- Your SOLUTION is the bridge in the middle that your client uses to alleviate their pains and emphasizes your differentiators.
- Your client’s GAINS are laid out on the right and convey the outcomes and results being achieved with your solution.
- Your client’s quote at the bottom articulates the PROOF.
Investing in the creation of these stories will produce a great return.
Clients are hungry for more than your opinion — they need proof your solution has worked with credible clients.
I challenge you to craft one of these stories with your team in the next week. Need help? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can circle-up with you to review where you are with your client value stories.