The power of proof: Client value stories

When asked what the #1 sales ready asset is that marketing needs to provide to their sales channels in a B2B sales cycle, I do not hesitate one second in my response: a solid client value story. And I’m not the only one – 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.

A powerful client story has all the ingredients a sales professional needs to be successful:

  • Big picture problem…Check.
  • Business, financial and personal pains for the buyer…Check.
  • Solution highlights (with differentiators!)…Check.
  • Demonstrable gains…Check.
  • Compelling client quote validating the problem was solved…Check.
  • story that resonates with buying audiences….Check, check and check!!!

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 black hole of client value stories all together.

According to Forrester Research, 78% of executive buyers claim salespeople don’t 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 services 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, and here are 3 reasons why:

  1. It gives buyers the sense of calm needed to get started in navigating their current situation. When they are likely paralyzed from feeling overwhelmed, 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”.
  2. It gives them 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.
  3. It gives buyers confidence in justifying the decision to themselves (the emotion) and to their broader buying committee – boss, peers, etc. (the 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.”

It is time for marketing and sales to unite on client value stories – the most important sales tool. If you are a marketing leader in the B2B arena, make client testimonials a priority on your team’s task list. They are gold. 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; make sure to foster introductions to some initial clients that can get the momentum going for your marketing partners.