Where are You on the “Value Quadrant for Professional Sales”?

I’m especially fixated on business development (BD) and sales right now, because one of the companies I work with is in transition and working to crack this nut. While there is a lot of overlap between BD, sales and marketing in the types of companies I work with, I don’t claim to be a sales guru. That’s why I have so much respect for Tony Hughes and other professionals I’ve been talking to lately who really know how to break into, manage and grow large enterprise accounts. More than that, they know how to teach other people to do it and coach them during sales situations, which is a real skill in itself. I’ll be introducing you to more of those people soon, because I’ve yet to run across an organization that has really mastered this type of selling across its sales organization. They may have rainmakers who have mastered it, but the rainmakers are usually naturals (“unconsciously competent”) and are, by definition, the exception rather than the rule. It’s also tough skill to transfer, so people like Tony are worth their weight in gold, especially when you are talking about average deal sizes in the millions, if not higher.

As a start, it’s worth sharing Tony Hughes’ “Value Quadrant for Professional Sales.”

RSVP Selling: Value Quadrant for Professional Sales - by Tony Hughes

From the RSVP Selling Framework by Tony Hughes

Many models talk about delivering customer value, but they don’t talk about how your sales activity should also be delivering value to your organization by uniquely positioning you and your company as an influencer with the customer who can solve their business problems, reduce risk during the process, and take them into the future. It’s easier for a sales person to be positioned in that upper left quadrant when the overall company story is one of clear, differentiated, problem-solving value (which is where the Apollo Method for Market Dominance comes in). But stellar sales people can get by even without that. And often they play a role in helping to define that theme for the entire company by talking to customers and finding the patterns of common problem areas across companies and feeding those back to the strategy and marketing teams.

There is a nice walk-through of the model on Tony’s website. On the surface, the labels in the box seem obvious and intuitive. But read his explanation for some nuances that are very important. This matrix offers a nice starting point for shifting your sales and business development organization toward truly delivering distinctive value to customers.

First Step Toward Market Dominance: What Will You Own? Here are the Criteria.

71264476This is your first step toward Market Dominance: Figure out what you want to “own.”
Here are criteria you want to apply when trying to determine what you will offer to the market place and and what you want to mean. Consider these for the ideal strategy-driven offering, positioning, messaging. These put you on a path toward sustainable differentiation. (from the Apollo Method for Market Dominance™)
1. Pick a Big Problem with Particular Characteristics: 
  • A really tough, very clear, common, critical, urgent business problem a lot of people easily relate to and are highly motivated to solve
  • Easy to capture in a sentence
  • It should be a nut no one seems to be able to crack
  • Requires deep expertise
  • A problem you want to take intellectual ownership of and be uniquely associated with in the market place
  • The more specific the better (narrow does not mean small)
  • Could be an opportunity instead of a problem – note, however, that companies more readily spend money to solve urgent problems
  • The lower on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs it sits, the more urgent it is

2. Develop a Point of View (POV) with Particular Characteristics: 

  • A clear, unique point of view on why there is a problem and specifically what companies need to do in order to solve the problem
  • The “why” above is important – not just that there is a problem, but the implications – why it is such a problem and the pressing imperative to address it
  • The “what” above should sound hard to do, be something no one else can currently provide, and be a set-up for your solution
  • POV should be provocative; ideally, it’s counterintuitive – this is what will attract attention, arouse curiosity
  • Easy to capture in a sentence
  • So compelling that it makes your target audience people want it right away. The more specific the better

3. Develop a Solution with Particular Characteristics: 

  • A unique, tangible approach to solving the problem that leads directly to a highly-valued business result/outcome
  • It provides business outcome people feel a sense of urgency to achieve
  • Easy to capture in a sentence
  • The more you can productize it, the better (name it, includes IP now or on the drawing board, methodology, etc.)
  • It should be repeatable, with a cost of delivery that goes down as adoption and sales volume go up
  • Assume others are going to jump into the fray and therefore position out ahead of them
  • The more specific, the better
Couple of points:
  • Urgency = margins – buyers are less or not at all price sensitive when in a hurry to realize a critical result
  • Specific does not mean small – you want a beachhead – the more specific it is, the easier it will be to be distinctive, to get attention, to be given platforms to talk about it in the marketplace, to stand out and be noticeable
  • Note to service providers: If you talk about what you do as a laundry list of generic services, you are delivering a capabilities- based message. A “capability” is not a solution. When you have a capabilities-based message, you are on a path to commoditization. For sustainable differentiation and go-to status, decide what specific business result you are going to deliver and how you’ll do that in a repeatable way.


Practical Tip: Suggested Sales Presentation Flow/Outline

Why-What-HowThis is a sales presentation flow designed to reel in your audience. Too many presentations jump right into the solution without a set-up – like telling the punchline and then winding your way back through the set-up when the joke falls flat. You might recognize this flow from the Stanford Pitching and Presenting JOLT -“How to Make Your Story Compelling.” Also use this for thought leadership presentations without as much emphasis on what you’re selling, unless it can be presented without seeming self serving.

This flow applies to presentations of any length, but you would cut down or omit slides for shorter time frames. The slide specs below are primarily designed for a one-hour presentation to be delivered to a captive audience (and your job is to make them captivated). You would not talk “at” an audience like this in small-group customer settings – you might, however, use this flow (with or without – mostly without, slides) as the basis for a conversation with the client or prospect. Too often we walk in with a stack of sides expecting an executive to sit through them – not going to happen.

  • Max 10-20 slides – preferably much less
  • Suggested Content framework (approximately):
    • Slide 1 – Title
    • Slide 2 – opening hook
    • Slides 3-5 – WHY there is a problem (e.g., with the way things done today) – not just what the problem is but why it’s such a problem
    • Slides 6-9 – WHAT companies should be doing about it (or realized they needed to do about it, if case study)
    • Slides 10-13 – HOW you have uniquely solved the problem – intro of the offering (service approach, product, solution) with emphasis on its secret sauce and revolutionary business value (vs functions and features or generic capabilities)
    • Slides 14-16 – Example of this in action (either customer examples/anecdotes or showing what’s so cool about the offering)
    • Slides 17-19 – (at your discretion) additional tips, additional layer of onion re the offering, how it’s priced (e.g., subscription model), additional examples, etc.
    • Slide 20 – call to action – invitation to see the demo, schedule a follow-up or one-on-one, customer site visit, etc. with contact info — if you’ve done a good job above, the audience will initiate action without prompting (that’s the ultimate in an effective presentation).
    • Q&A (in small settings, this is best handled throughout, so as to engage the audience and make the meeting interactive)


  • Above all – design your material through the audience’s eyes, which may mean throwing all of this out and starting fresh – tailor to your audience
  • Focus on the business message – emphasize business outcomes and value creation – what’s in it for them?
  • Do not try to cover everything about your offering – key in on the most distinctive aspects of the offering – what makes it unique
  • It is critical that you engage the audience emotionally
  • The slides are not the presentation – they are there to support what you’re saying by making it more memorable – minimal content – you should be able to cover your material without slides. You want them listening to you, not reading or watching your slides.
  • Make it entertaining – Look for ways to make the content more interesting with props, sound, graphics, images, multimedia, stories, audience engagement, etc.
  • Take the Stanford Pitching JOLT (crash course on “How to Make Your Story Compelling”) for more tips and more in-depth discussion.

Please give attribution when sharing this information: Copyright © 1999 by Lina Group, Inc. from the Apollo Method for Market Dominace™.

The Joshua Principle: Leadership Secrets of Selling

Joshua Principle cover imageI plan to post an early draft of Chapter 1 of my book shortly, but in the meantime, there is another book you should read. I couldn’t put it down, and I can’t recommend it highly enough:  The Joshua Principle: Leadership Secrets of Selling by Tony Hughes. You can buy it on Amazon. It’s available in hardcopy and for the Kindle. It’s also available as an ebook and audio book for other formats. It’s fine to listen to it, but I would read it as well — my copy is all marked up and dog-earred, and I refer to it constantly. Tony has done such a great job of articulating the rationale for the type of selling you need to be doing when targeting large, complex enterprises with technology, solutions or services that I just refer people to passages from his book when trying to educate them. I also send people to his website, where there are lots of useful tools and additional information on “RSVP Selling,” the framework discussed in the book.

I don’t write many reviews on Amazon, but I felt spontaneously compelled to write one for this book:

“If you are associated with a company that sells to enterprises (particularly if you sell technology, software or services), you should have every person in the company read this book. Tony Hughes does an outstanding job of explaining “how it’s done” – how companies like yours need to be approaching sales and business development. It’s an excellent primer on what your overall sales and business development philosophy should be. It also lays out how your client-facing people need to be engaging with customers in a way that will differentiate your company and deliver value. Excellent, excellent book. Because it is written as a novel about a sales mentoring relationship, it is a page-turner that delivers a rich explanation of concepts while explaining the “RSVP Selling” approach (which is a wrap-around for whatever sales methodology you use) – his excellent writing provides a fun, rewarding read and great way to level-set your organization. Tony clearly has deep, deep experience and a long track record of success in this field. I am grateful he shared his insights in this book, and now I try to get all of my clients to read it.”

Watch for upcoming posts on RSVP Selling and passages from the book. Tony’s thoughts and approach are worth sharing.