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March 26, 2013   Posted by: Dale Underwood

Value Proposition or Price? Which comes first?

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As marketing and sales professionals, we have all dealt with the occasional customer that seems keenly focused on price and won’t focus on anything but price until they are satisfied. This used to be rare but is now becoming the norm, even for traditionally complex products and services that must be configured to solve a specific problem.

Dave Brock, President and CEO of Partners In EXCELLENCE, wrote a good piece on his Partners in Excellence blog titled, Price is Never the only decision criteria!. As a top sales consultant, Dave has been encountering an increasingly number of clients’ reps that cite Pricing as the first thing customers want to know.

Here’s a short excerpt:

“One of my usual questions, fairly early on, is: What are your prospect’s decision criteria and priorities?

100% of the time, the response is Price!

And I wait….. but there’s silence.

‘Tell me something new, price is always an issue. It may be their top issue, but it is never their only issue! What other things are they going to base their decision on?’ Over 80% of the time, I get blank stares. ‘We don’t know, they keep focusing on price.’ is the response from the sales person.“

 

Sound familiar?

This isn’t just a figment of Sales’ imagination or an excuse for poor sales results. There are hard surveys that back up the idea that customers DO want to understand pricing first before they spend any time understanding your Value Proposition. We’ll discuss why in a moment but here’s the proof.

Take a look at the results of this B2B Buyer’s Study (click to enlarge) done by MarketingSherpa and Enquiro:

sherpaenquiro01raw

According to this group of 1,000 B2B prospects, they want Pricing before the Value Proposition (product info/benefits)!

But WHY does PRICING outweigh the VALUE PROPOSITION for B2B Prospects?

Don’t take it personally, it’s not your fault.

The simple answer is TIME … THEIR TIME … or the the lack thereof

My opinion for why this is happening in B2B sales is based on examining the PROSPECT’S TIME vs. CONTENT problem. Look at the following graphic showing the prospect’s time in green.

Before the internet marketing explosion, prospects had ample time to review and digest offerings from a variety of vendors. The process was slower and generally consisted of attending trade shows, conferences and reading industry magazines.

time_011

Then, around 2000, Internet Marketers started generating digital content … and more content … and more content.

Prospective customers love it. They no longer have to travel to get the latest information about the products and services they need.

The problem is, the TIME vs. CONTENT ratio has reversed as shown in the following diagram:

time_031

The prospect simply does not have time to digest all of the available solutions to his or her problem. The quantity of information is overwhelming.

So, knowing that she will never be able to completely analyze all of the options she decides to eliminate some vendors based on affordability. If she can pare down the group to a “short list” of potential providers, then she can more thoroughly choose between the remaining vendors. This improves the Time to Content ratio in the prospects favor as shown below:

time_04

Using a short list based on affordability, or budget fit, a prospect can now dive deeper into the remaining vendor’s content. The prospective customer has used budget fit at the very beginning of their research to save themselves time.

This revelation means that the savvy B2B marketer may be missing good prospects by focusing too heavily on product content and not providing a way for a website visitor to easily get budgetary pricing.

With this new paradigm, the new engagement model looks something like this:

Awareness
   V
BUDGETARY PRICING
   V
Value Proposition
   V
Decision
   V
Final Pricing
   V
Purchase

Take a look at your own website. Do you have an easy way for prospects to Request a Quote without filling out a useless web form?

For an elegant solution to increase your website lead generation, check out EchoQuote by LeadLifter.

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