Derailing the deal, part 5: No value proposition

Do you ever feel like your deals are heading down the track toward success, but then somehow end up not closing and falling apart? What is happening between point A and point B? What is derailing your deals? In part five, the final installment of this mini-series, we are going to look at another common issue that causes deals to miss the mark:

  1. Wrong Buyer Profile
  2. Unqualified Buyer
  3. Status Quo Wins
  4. Me-Too Positioning & Messaging
  5. No Value Proposition

No Value Proposition

Value-oriented selling approaches are the gold standard—they have been for years. In fact, we could make an argument that most sales methodologies employed in B2B selling environments today are based on a simple premise: if the gain is greater than the pain, then the buyer will take action. If it is that straightforward, then why do just 42% of all selling organizations have a “formalized value proposition that is very compelling to prospects,” compared to 92% of world-class organizations (CSO Insights)?

If we dig deeper behind those disheartening research findings, we find the root cause as to why value-oriented selling has not driven the results we all want to see.

A compelling value proposition for a buyer has three components that build upon one another: pain, solution and gain. The interwoven story of these three elements distinguishes world-class sellers from the rest of the field.

93% of world-class organizations state “We clearly understand our customer’s issues before we propose a solution,” compared to just 48% of all organizations (CSO Insights).


Before your buyer can ever buy from you, they need to understand they have a problem…an issue…a pain. Solutions do not matter at this point. Why? Because if they do no recognize they even have a need, then they do not need a solution. In essence, if a seller fails to amplify the buyer’s pain threshold, then “status quo” wins, an issue we reviewed earlier in our series.

Sales managers believe 53% of reps “need a major redesign” or “need improvement” in linking solutions to the needs of individual stakeholders (CSO Insights).


Once the buyer is aware of their pain, and, after giving it careful consideration determines it is worth addressing, then they are ready for a solution. The solution proposed by the seller in a value-based exchange needs to link back to the buyer’s pain, and it needs to be distinguished from the other alternatives the buyer is evaluating in their buying cycle. Those two components characterize a compelling solution, by addressing the buyer’s current situation and differentiating itself from competitive offerings – something we examined earlier in our series when we reviewed the pitfalls of me-too positioning and messaging.

54% of sales leaders said their sales teams “need improvement” in building a solid business case and/or ROI for their company’s solutions (CSO Insights).


That takes us to the gain. Over the years, sales and marketing executives have made strides in shifting the focus of their proposals from features and functions to the benefits of those capabilities. That transition has been accelerated by formalized “value engineering” disciplines that have sprung-up within the go-to-market teams of many B2B organizations. This function has focused much of its energy on developing “business cases or ROIs” for their solution rooted in the benefits a buyer can expect to achieve with their solution. That sounds like a great way to close the loop on the value proposition model. Why do so many need to improve their business case/ROI? The business case does NOT link back to the pain. The argument includes two of the pillars of a complete value proposition – our solution delivers these benefits – but not all three – for example, for organizations experiencing these pains, our solution helps the buyer achieve these gains. Without the pain, the benefits may sound good, but they alone often fail to get a buyer to move from their current state to the future state. Further, the differentiated solution provides the bridge from the doldrums of that current state to future state nirvana.

This three-fold value proposition equation is how the buyer justifies their purchase – first to themselves, then to their peers, other stakeholders and ultimately higher up their chain of command. When sellers fail to connect all three elements of a value proposition into a “three-part harmony” they do themselves and their prospective buyer a disservice by allowing the buyer to accept today’s situation as good enough.

Do not let your value proposition derail your deal. Tie the entire story together so you win more and your buyer suffers less.

If you enjoyed this series and would like to discuss how we can help your team keep your deals on track, please contact us: