Do Your Value Propositions "Go To Eleven"?

In Rob Reiner’s 1984 “rockumentary,” This Is Spinal Tap, one of the main characters, Nigel Tufnel, proclaims that they are different than other bands because their amplifiers “go to ll.” (You have to watch this clip if you don't know what I am talking about).

What a perfect analog of how B2B companies are trying to differentiate themselves today. I have the opportunity to work with sales and marketing professionals on the topic of competitive preference, and here are some actual quotes from vendors about how they think they separate themselves from “other blokes”:

  • “But we are truly global and our competitors are not” – a managed services provider
  • “We are much more scalable than them” – a software provider
  • “We deliver our services in the cloud” – a software-as-a-service provider

Translation? “These go to 11.”

You know the show MythBusters?

Forrester’s Sales Enablement team is testing the conventional wisdoms of sales and marketing by asking executive level buyers what they think. 

So, does “11” differentiate you? No.

According to our study, executives find vendors who match the right combination of capabilities to their given situation to be the most differentiated, with those aligned to help them realize a business result at number two. Taken together, 53% of these executives find things that are fundamental to any professional selling course to be more differentiating than any other attribute, including their products and services, their branding, or their customer services. 

Said a different way, how you sell is as important as what you sell.

Shameless plug 1- Read “Technology Buyer Insight Study: How Executives Differentiate Among Their Suppliers"

To further highlight this issue – when we asked the same buying executives how well prepared salespeople were for their first meetings, they told us:

  • 88% were usually knowledgeable about their (the vendor's) products and services.
  • 55% usually had industry knowledge.
  • 34% felt salespeople usually understood the executive's role and responsibility in the organization.
  • 29% believed salespeople understood their business (executive's business) and how they (the vendor) could help.

This data is clearly a testament to what you are preparing your salespeople to do (with how you measure them, manage them, train them, and equip them). 

Shameless plug 2: Read “Technology Buyer Insight Study: Are Salespeople Prepared For Executive Conversations?”

Toward the end of This is Spinal Tap, the band has a new manager and they are playing a gig at an amusement park, where the marquee lists them first before a puppet show. The manager says, “If I told them once, I told them 1,000 times – Spinal Tap first, then puppet show.”

Obviously, she’s missing the bigger picture – but your company is, too, if you are working off of a standard checklist and unknowingly contributing to the ever-growing list of random acts of sales support, or certifying your sales force on how well their know their products. 

Many companies today realize the status quo is untenable, and most are beginning to invest in more holistic approaches (no, not the Seinfeld holistic healer) that focus first on adding value to customers and then on determining ways to systematize their go-to-market models from there.

Shameless plug 3: Read “Engineering Valuable Sales Conversations”


What do you think?

I get to speak with a lot of you privately; but let's start sharing our perspectives with each other.

I'll go first. I wrote this post for three reasons.
1) For those caught in random acts to take a step back and look at the world a little differently,
2) for those who get there is a problem and struggle to connect it to something important, and
3) highlight that we are looking at the sales & marketing alignment problem differently and we are getting our information directly from buyers.

I'm still finding my way around this whole "blogging" thing... so is this too big a topic? Should I dial this back and make it more bite sized? How much call to action should I have in a blog, and what do I put into a report?

Searingly accurate portrayal

Scott, this is a great post that uses timeless reference to make your point. Everyone who sees the movie remembers the killer line "It's the best and I got it because it goes to 11. Well of course 11 is better." Who knew Rob was making a what not to do training film for the rest of us in sales and marketing?!

You asked about blogging and the topic and I think this is a great use of storytelling and thought. To me great posts make me think "Huh... good point... or never thought of that... or need to go check into that..." and this one gave me tool I can use with my own team to make a pointed example while enjoying a bit of movie humor.

On the shameless plug, interesting approach... don;t be shameless, just make specific reference points directly.


Thanks - would love to know how it goes over

I use that clip with clients often for the same effect you are looking for. I've found it to be a great way to make someone's light bulb go off without beating them over the head.

If we want to help our sales people be different - we do need to confront a lot of bad habits ; but that doesn't mean we can't be fun about it.

Thanks for the comments.

Go to 11 and blogging

Great post - makes me laughing after a long sales enablement day! “Go to 11” covers perfectly the holistic sales enablement approach and I'm already reflecting our own sales enablement analogy with the live band, their repertoire and different audiences and how to combine it. Thanks a lot - it fits perfectly together!

That's what blogging should be: addressing one topic from a special perspective well written with a sense of humor which invites people to write a comment and to start a discussion.
That's what you did and you encouraged at least Brian and me to answer!
A post doesn't need to be a scientific paper - that's what you write in a research document or a white paper. These are documents we work with in different ways e.g. we use core statements, graphics and slides for our own approaches and programs.

I fully agree with Brian - you don't need to be so carefully. Just tell us this is a “must read” for this post (maybe a German approach...), and this could be an additional "nice to have" read.
Reading is only a first step, execution is our real challenge!

Laughter is the best medicine!

Ha, yes Tamara - this would be a perfect clip to leave with your band analogy.

I have a whole slew of these little one liners or quick concepts I throw out in the course of conversation often. Perhaps I should do more blogs about these little concepts.

They actually do help with the change management process because they give your team an anchor point and common experience to share. For example as you work on messaging moving forward - you can encourage your collegues to call people out for "these go to 11" type value props. It's actually a little fun.

I'm going to think about following a german approach. Perhaps what would be funny is the POV of an American trying to follow a German approach. We'll see how long I can stay in charater! ha.