Impact Pricing Podcast

Ep133: Buyer’s Value Journey: Your Guide to Consumer Decisions with Mark Boundy

Mark Boundy is an expert in value building, selling, and marketing.

In this episode, Mark explains how to present value to your customers in a measurable, concrete, and real way where value is quantified resulting in more profitable deals and paying customers.

Why you have to check out today’s podcast:

  • Learn how to translate your customers’ feature-and-benefit differentiation into a customer-differentiated customer outcome.
  • Understand the buyer’s purchasing journey so they know the value they are getting, and you become their only choice
  • Discover the 13 things you need to know about your customer, so you win every time

Right now, customers are really struggling with some different issues. And slowing down and understanding your customers’ business and how their business is changing gives you an opportunity to really set yourself apart as that trusted advisor, that trusted partner who can help them co-create a solution that maybe your competitors could, but your crappy competitor salespeople don’t. 

Mark Boundy

      

Topics Covered:

02:47 – What is a sales funnel and the misconceptions about it

03:57 – The most shortsighted thinking when it comes to sales funnels

07:03 – Thoughts on some terms used that are seller-centric

08:46 – What the process looks like when humans decide at something

10:18 – What happens when customers are only self-informed

12:53 – The likelihood when there is no differentiating factor among sellers other than the price

14:11 – How to make customers ‘will I’ compelling that you are the only choice for the ‘which one’ decision

15:23 – Creating demand for the outcomes that come from the differentiating feature

17:10 – Importance of dollarizing outcomes

18:01 – What’s with personal outcomes

19:39 – Value versus price

26:43 – Thirteen things you need to know about your customers

Key Takeaways: 

“If we tell salespeople just to find out what the customers have self-informed and what their envision is, what usually happens is the result of that self-informing is under informing and misinforming and some combination. And their vision for the future is probably pretty underwhelming. And if you actually build exactly what they envisioned, it would never have ROI in the first place.” – Mark Boundy

“We train people using methodologies and great questions and understand and uncover the pain. To uncover, get a perfect vision of the customer’s imperfect vision. When we ask them to uncover the pain, the customer can only answer the pain that is the result of their self-informed vision, they can only give you what they know. They need an expert to say have you ever thought about this or other customers like you have actually found this, too.” – Mark Boundy

“You have to bring them [customers] from a ‘will I’ to a ‘what will I’. As soon as that ‘what will I’ becomes compelling, then they’re back to a ‘will I’ and it happens to be a ‘will I’ that you’re the only available ‘which one’?” – Mark Boundy

“I work with my clients to understand their differentiation. And I work with them really hard to translate their feature-and-benefit differentiation into a customer differentiated customer outcomes.” – Mark Boundy

“Value only exists in your customers’ mind, that scale, that counterbalance only exists in your customers’ mind. Your value that you articulate, it’s a value proposition, you’re proposing something that you hope comes into existence between your customers and yours. So, credibility is what opens their ear.” – Mark Boundy

“Value has to outweigh the price. Your differentiated value has to outweigh the price premium over the next best choice.” – Mark Boundy

People/Resources Mentioned: 

Connect with Mark Boundy:

Connect with Mark Stiving:   

Full Interview Transcript

(Note: This transcript was created with an AI transcription service. Please forgive any transcription or grammatical errors. We probably sounded better in real life.)

Mark Boundy 

Right now, customers are really struggling with some different issues. And slowing down and understanding your customers’ business and how their business is changing gives you an opportunity to really set yourself apart as that trusted advisor, that trusted partner who can help them co-create a solution that maybe your competitors could, but your crappy competitor salespeople don’t.

[Intro]

Mark Stiving 

Today’s podcast is sponsored by Jennings Executive Search. I had a great conversation with John Jennings about the skills needed in different pricing roles. He and I think a lot alike. If you’re looking for a new pricing role, or if you’re trying to hire just the right pricing person, I strongly suggest you reach out to Jennings Executive Search. They specialize in placing pricing people, say that three times fast.

Mark Stiving

Welcome to Impact Pricing, the podcast where we discuss pricing, value, and the crucial relationship between them. I’m Mark Stiving, today our guest is Mark Boundy. Here are three things you ought to know about Mark before we start, he is a third time podcast guest. He was one of our original ones. And then he came back on and talked about value at, hey Mark, what’s the name of the company?

Mark Boundy 

WL Gore.

Mark Stiving 

Gore, yes, thank you. Thank you. He is a sales pricing and value consultant and has been doing this for ten years. And he published a phenomenal book called Radical Value. Welcome, Mark.

Mark Boundy 

Mark, thank you. Great to be on again, great to catch up and have a chat.

Mark Stiving 

And we just haven’t chatted for a while. Can we tell the audience we actually talked for about five minutes before we hit the record button? But I have no idea what we’re really going to talk about today. Other than sales and value and pricing.

Mark Boundy 

Yeah, you know, we’ve found out over the course of the last probably two some years that we are very much kindred spirits when it comes to this. So, it’s always interesting to get each other’s perspective. And sorry if you want controversy, but I don’t think we’re going to disagree very strongly about much.

Mark Stiving 

We’ll try to find some. It’s okay. So, in our free five minutes, you said, hey, let’s talk about sales funnels and what they look like in companies and how we perceive them or miss perceive them. So go ahead and set that up for us. What are you thinking?

Mark Boundy 

You know, I’ve managed funnels, and in my days with Miller Heiman, I help people define sales stages and sales funnels. And they’re a very useful tool to help organize selling work helps organize and marshal the correct resources at the correct time in your engagement plan with your customer. But the problem is the sales funnel really covers a tiny portion of the customer’s buying journey. And when we at the selling organization start to believe that that funnel represents anything having to do with the customer, we start assuming horrible things about the customer start missing things with and about our customer. And we can actually be sowing the seeds of our own demise if we believe that our funnel represents the customer’s buying decision at all.

Mark Stiving 

Okay, give us an example. How are we going to mess up if we trust the funnel? By the way, I don’t think the funnel represents the customer’s buying decision as much as it represents the way we think about sales.

Mark Boundy 

No, you’re absolutely right. And at Miller Heiman, we spent a lot of time actually trying to shift the thinking at a client, saying that you have a minimum action to go from stage one to stage two in your buying process. And stage two to stage three are the minimum required selling actions required to promote a deal. And we spent a ton of time saying that we also want to have a set of minimum customer buying actions to promote it from one to two to three. Because if the customer is not really engaged in a buying process, and you’re endlessly marching through your sales process at the end, when you think that they’re ready to sign something and they’re saying sorry, I’m still thinking about what I want to do with my life. Suddenly, you have wasted a ton of selling time selling resources. You’ve put forecasts, and you’ve committed to the CEO, and the CEO has committed to their stock analysts. Lots of bad things happen. So, we tried to tie customer buying actions to that. But remember, your customers buying journeys started way before you put them into the top of the funnel. And we think of the first part of our funnel as qualifying the customer, not discovering how much of their buying process they’ve gone through, how flawed the process has been so far, what they think, what they know, what they aspire to, what blind spots they have. We’re just qualifying and make sure they have BANT, you know. And that is the most short-sighted thing. And similarly, at the end, we talk about closing and think of a split-screen, where on one screen, or one side of a split-screen, you have what’s happening on the sales floor, right? When the customer signs the contract, there’s a bell ringing and people jumping up and down, and somebody is calculating their commission, and it’s a big celebration. And on the split screen, on the other side, the customer suddenly has got the cold sweats because now they’re finally fully accountable for an outcome. Think about those two. And on the right-hand side, the salespeople are celebrating, and they hand them off to somebody who barely talked to that customer before, not, they never took really good notes in the first place. And so now that customer feels pretty alienated and pretty orphaned, and what we got them through the funnel, right, we got the deal. And I know your book, ‘Win Keep Grow’, I am lucky enough to be one of the advanced readers, you really hammered this home that that’s the way a lot of conventional businesses have always thought and enlightened companies understand that that is not how the customer experiences use your product, your service, doing business with you. And thinking narrowly in terms of, I mean, even using the word close. There’s a customer close, but they’re open.

Mark Stiving 

Right, that’s the beginning of the relationship.

Mark Boundy 

Yeah, so the idea of closing and the idea of being called a lead and the fact that they are qualifying, those are all very seller-centric words. Even demonstration is seller-centric, rather than determining fit or discovering which part of your software that is really going to add value to their life.

Mark Stiving 

Nice. I love that you think about these things. Mark. I want to jump back to what you were talking about earlier, where you said, when we qualify a buyer, we don’t know anything about what they’ve been through to get to that point. And what I want to do with you, if you don’t mind, is, I’ve got a concept that I’ve been writing about, I’ve been playing with, and I call it a buyer’s value journey.

Mark Boundy 

Yeah, I like it already.

Mark Stiving 

Thank you. But essentially, the question is, how does a buyer learn about the value of our products? What are the steps they’re going to go through? And you’ve probably heard me talk about the ‘will I’ and the ‘which one’ concept? So first off, to say yes, I am going to buy something in the product category. And then they go out and shop around for which am I going to buy? If you think about this as a two-by-two matrix, that’s one piece of the two-by-two matrix. The other pieces, am I doing this without talking to a salesperson, or while I’m talking to a salesperson? And now we have these different journeys. And one of them I call the analytical journey, where it’s the one that we probably all think that our customers take where they first say I got this problem. And then they go on the internet, and they do their, according to Forrester, 57% of the buying purchase before they contact a salesperson. And then they come to talk to us, and they’ve done a ton of the work before they ever get to us.

Mark Boundy 

I have a very strong opinion on this. I wish I remembered the name of the author at Miller Heiman, we talked about it all the time, the title of the book, and the study was ‘The Nature of Human Intelligence.’ And they said that human beings, when they’re trying to decide something, first, there’s a trigger event where they decide that status quo is no longer acceptable. But they start not by looking for things. They start by understanding their situation, understanding their aspirations, their, you know, what’s not good, what they need to change, what they could possibly do, what things could change as part of that. Then they go out and look and explore options to meet that conceptual, future state envisioned, and then they narrow those down to one and they buy. Using the internet, it’s the same process. But we have done ourselves a real disservice. And we’ve done salespeople a huge disservice by telling them, oh, customers have informed X percent. I don’t even know how you measure 57% of a sales process to two digits, significant digits of precision. But let’s just say more than half, I can live with that. But, customer… Think about it, if you’re a salesperson or if you’re anywhere in a selling company who knows more about the nuances, the ins, and outs of your product or service, you, or your highly informed customer?

Mark Stiving 

Yeah, certainly it’s you.

Mark Boundy 

Right. And so, if we tell salespeople just to find out what the customers have self-informed and what their envision is, what usually happens is the result of that self-informing is under informing and misinforming and some combination. And their vision for the future is probably pretty underwhelming. And if you actually build exactly what they envisioned, it would never have ROI in the first place because it’s so underpowered, underwhelming, and misunderstanding the possibilities. So, they’ve got a crippled vision of the future. Perhaps when they’re really good, they’ll have a good one if they buy it regularly. But the best case, if it’s an infrequently purchased product or service, they will have an imperfect vision of their own future. We train people using methodologies and great questions and understand and uncover the pain.  To uncover, get a perfect vision of the customer’s imperfect vision. When we ask them to uncover the pain, the customer can only answer the pain resulting from their self-informed vision; they can only give you what they know. They need an expert to say, have you ever thought about this or other customers like you have actually found this, too. And so, all those unanticipated outcomes are unavailable to the customer in that self-informed, underwhelming vision of the future. So, invariably, what happens is the three companies that are the best at understanding in getting a perfect vision of the customer’s imperfect future or vision become finalists. The customer says I’ve got three proposals on my desk with three different logos on the cover, but it’s the same proposal inside. And the ROI isn’t there because the ROI was never in your vision. So, half the time today, especially in technology products, half the time, no decision wins because there wasn’t enough value. And there wasn’t enough, value can be, there wasn’t ROI, we couldn’t approve the budget, the budget got moved away. And so, you tell the salesperson all these different flavors of, there wasn’t enough value.

Mark Stiving 

Yeah, I would say using the parlance or the language that I usually use, they never really said yes to the ‘will I’ decision. They never said yes, I’m going to buy something in the product category. They said yes, I might. But they never said yes, ‘I will’.

Mark Boundy

Of course, yes, I got a problem. Yes, I will. But now that I’ve dug deeper into it, geez, what I thought I wanted, it just really isn’t all that compelling. And there are three different ways three different companies selling it. And they aren’t different. And so, if I have to buy something, I’m going to beat two of them up on price. Yep. Because they aren’t different anyway.

Mark Stiving 

Yep. And so now I want to go down the next…

Mark Boundy 

I’m going to finish it. When you’ve undersold and haven’t helped broaden the customer’s vision, the two outcomes are half the time no decision wins, and the other half of the time price wins. Which one sucks at work? I could not honestly tell you.

Mark Stiving 

Yep. Okay. So, when I think of salespeople talking to customers, I tend to think that salespeople are having conversations about the ‘will I’ decision or the ‘which one’ decision, not both. And what I just heard you say is, even though the customer came to us ready for a ‘which one’ decision and ‘which one’ conversation, we really needed to bring that back to the ‘will I’ conversation so that they truly understand the value of solving the problem then move back into the ‘which one’?

Mark Boundy 

Yeah, and it might be a ‘what will I,’ right? Because of their ‘will I’, they said yes to this underwhelming future vision that was never going to have the ROI in the first place. So, their ‘which one’ was always going to be crippled. So, you have to bring them rather from a ‘will I’ to a ‘what will I’.

Mark Stiving 

Yep. I’m with you.

Mark Boundy 

As soon as that ‘what will I’ becomes compelling, then they’re back to a ‘will I’ and it happens to be a ‘will I’ that you’re the only available ‘which one’?

Mark Stiving 

Yep. Okay, so let me give you the second of the three journeys that I want to talk about real quick. The second one is the buyer says, ‘You know, I got this problem. I don’t really feel like doing the research. I’m going to call my friend, the salesperson, or I’m going to walk into a retail store, and I’m going to let that salesperson educate me about this. And now the salesperson has the opportunity to say, ‘What’s the problem? How do we solve it?’ I would call it ‘will I,’ you would say ‘what will I,’ and then the buyer says to us, ‘Thank you very much. I still need to shop around and look at other alternatives.’ But yet we had to leg up because we got to educate them. I call that a relationship journey. What do you think?

Mark Boundy 

I like it. And so, I work with my clients to understand their differentiation. And I work with them really hard to translate their feature and benefit differentiation into customer differentiated customer outcomes. My commercial carpet wears longer, which doesn’t just mean more, you know, dollars or better dollars per year calculus; it also means fewer replacement cycles. And if your carpet is underneath your customer service department, the business disruption is much less frequent. And so, we actually teach the, if your differentiation is longer-wearing, now, I want to have my salespeople talk about business disruption. Because of that business disruption, preventing business disruption is the ‘what will I’ that I’m the best in the world at delivering. I want to teach my customer to ask about durability and ask about business disruption and put business disruption in their internal business case, though that ‘which one’ I’ve already, that relationship advantage went to something, I planted the seed, and I created the value for my differentiated features. So, anytime you got a differentiated feature, let’s make sure that your salespeople are really creating demand for the outcomes that come from that differentiating feature.

Mark Stiving 

Now, I absolutely love that. They are beautiful. I do something really similar as well; I call it a value table where it’s a problem solution that results in value. And so, the result in my world would have been that business disruption. And then the value is just what’s the dollar value. And you have to shut down your customer service department for a day to replace the carpet.

Mark Boundy 

Yes. So yeah, it’s very important to dollarize that outcome as much as possible. What is the cost of the business disruption? What are you missing? And you know, there are always some parts of it that you can’t quantify, like, you know, what dollar price would you put on not having your facilities people not get the phone call? You broke my Ohio State mug, or my granddaughter’s picture is right. Right? That’s a giant pain, but it’s hard to put a $1 value on, but you know, they want to avoid that. And if you can make that real in their mind, it almost doesn’t matter. Right?

Mark Stiving 

Yeah, I just want to point out, I did not bring up Michigan first, okay.

Mark Boundy 

I actually had a colleague once. Their client was a mobile phone provider, mobile phone service provider. And they were bidding for a large corporate contract, and they have the best price, and they thought with the lead, the Telecom lead, the Vice President of Telecom services, they were sure they had everything buttoned up. And they found out that the guy said, ‘I am not going ever to risk taking a call from my CEO in the middle of the night, because a call got dropped. So, I’m sticking with my existing provider at a higher price.’ Sometimes, those outcomes are personal and don’t have $1 amount attached to them, but they really work.

Mark Stiving 

Yes, yes. Okay, last of the three journeys, this journey, it’s called the trust journey. It isn’t overly common, but you have to recognize it and sell properly when it’s there. And the trust journey is when someone says, ‘Yeah, I have a problem. I think I’m going to solve it, they call a salesperson, and they never call another salesperson because they trusted you. Now that could be because it came as a referral. It could be repeat business. Right? But for whatever reason, they were calling you, and they’re not going to call somebody else. But you may not know that; you just have to treat them as though they’re never going to call anybody else.  What I love about those people, by the way, is, they’re not price sensitive. Price wasn’t driving that decision.

Mark Boundy 

Yeah. I love that. When I talk to people about value versus price, I bring out the visual of the two pans scale, you know, the scale that gold miners used to have that you always see Lady Justice in? And that scale exists inside your customer’s mind. So, it’s not super concrete. There’s like an Alice in Wonderland LSD trip because these things change in mysterious ways, except that your price or your price premium is measurable in a dollar sense. And sometimes down to five and six places after the decimal point. It’s very concrete, very measurable. And that’s what’s in one pan, your value, whether it’s that the business disruption, or getting called by your CEO for a drop call that goes in the other pan, and you weigh the value against the price. And if the value outweighs the price premium, you’re going to buy from them. Now the trust that a salesperson has actually, this is where it gets Alice in Wonderland, the cross beam that goes from where the two pans hang the cross beam from the pivot to where the value pan hangs from can shorten or lengthen. And when they trust the salesperson, it gets longer. And when they don’t cut the salesperson, it gets shorter. So, the same amount of value outweighs the ever-decreasing amount of price premium because they just don’t trust you. They don’t believe you. Gartner says…

Mark Stiving 

Fabulous visual, just wanted to throw that out. Fabulous visual, good. What’s Gartner say?

Mark Boundy 

So, Gartner said that either two or 3% of salespeople are highly trusted advisors by their customers. Think about how low that bar is, and so you can imagine if, and 86% of the time, the customer says the salesperson doesn’t even understand my business. So that trust failure is a very real thing because the odds of going out and finding a second person who can do what the first person has already done are staggeringly low. Your salespeople are staggeringly bad. And it’s staggeringly easy to get to be one of them, no longer be one of the 97% of salespeople that aren’t trusted advisors.

Mark Stiving 

Okay, so I could do this, but I’m going to ask you to tie the conversation we’ve just had back to the word that we both love. And that’s value.

Mark Boundy 

Value only exists in your customer’s mind. That scale, that counterbalance only exists in your customer’s mind. Your value that you articulate, it’s a value proposition, you’re proposing something that you hope comes into existence between your customer’s ears. So, credibility is what opens their ear, is one of the things that open their ears, not just the number, but the fact that they believe you and allow it into their being, into their soul, to listen to it and believe it. So, value has to outweigh the price, your value premium has to outweigh your differentiated value, have to outweigh the price premium over the next best choice. And the only way you’re going to get anything in that pan is if they believe you. Because it could be if they don’t trust you, that short arm means it doesn’t matter how much value is there.

Mark Stiving 

Yeah. And that trust really comes from listening to our customers; what are their pain points? What do they really care about? Being able to position our product, solve their problems, and then helping them calculate the dollar value of solving the problems we’re going to solve for them?

Mark Boundy 

Absolutely. And so, there are two ways that that value comes into existence. If they have quantified an outcome or described an outcome themselves, the person who quantifies it with them and helps them walk through the dollar value of that is ahead has an advantage. I seem to have sold in my past or help companies sell products that reduce various forms of risk. Risk is a funny thing. Everybody knows it, sees it, knows it costs. But the risk manager and the CFO are never on your buying committee. The person who understands how many dollars that risk is doesn’t vote for you unless you go out and get them to drag them kicking and screaming into the buying committee to explain to everybody else just how huge this risk is. So, part of that is even if they’ve articulated a risk, you have to help them quantify it. And the second thing is, if they didn’t think about that risk, if there is something where you’re able to challenge their vision of the future, challenge their concept of what is achievable, expand their vision of the future, now you’re the only one offering that differentiated bit of future. Next to the same thing that the three other finalists that are all the same as each other are. I mean, it’s two other finalists that are the same. And you who have all of that plus is differentiated stuff. So, how to quantify it with your customer makes that value more real, more concrete, more measurable, adds more stuff, and adds more things because your value has often had tentacles that reach throughout your customers’ company. And just because the person who feels that pain isn’t done, your buying committee doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be.

Mark Stiving 

Yep, Mark, I feel like I could sit here and talk all day with you about these. It just flows. But we have to end with the last question, what’s the piece of pricing advice you’d give our listeners today that you think could have a big impact on their business?

Mark Boundy 

Right now, customers are really struggling with some different issues. And slowing down and understanding your customers’ business and how their business is changing gives you an opportunity to really set yourself apart as that trusted adviser, that trusted partner who can help them co-create a solution that maybe your competitors could but your crappy competitor salespeople don’t.

Mark Stiving 

Yeah, I think the key that salespeople don’t do often enough, and you’ve said this a few times today, is understand your customers’ business.

Mark Boundy 

It’s crazy. I have a whole course on business acumen. Here are the 13 things you need to know about your customer, preferably before you walk in, but certainly by the time you had the second discovery appointment, what are their management risks? What is their cost structure? Some things that you can learn by cyberstalking them. Some things you only learn by asking them but understand them and their world, and just the act of being curious and compassionate and empathetic creates a ton of connection and a ton of credibility and relationship. And from there on, it’s actually easy for you to find something about your product or service that plugs into some part of their business that neither of you had imagined before. And all it takes is asking the best questions; the best listener almost always wins.

Mark Boundy 

Nice Mark; thank you so much for your time today. If anybody wants to contact you, how can they do that? Reach out at mark@boundyconsulting; Boundy is B O U N D Y consulting.com. You can look for my book ‘Radical Value’ on the big A, Amazon, or wherever you like to buy your books. But you can look at my website at boundyconsulting.com, or I’m at markboundyconsulting.com.

Mark Stiving 

And we can find you on LinkedIn as well.

Mark Boundy 

Absolutely.

Mark Stiving  

Nice, nice. Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed this, would you please leave us a rating and review? Gabrieltt78 left a really long review, ‘Like it a lot.’ Thanks, Gabriel. I really appreciate that. And finally, if you have any questions or comments about the podcast or pricing in general, feel free to email me at mark@impactpricing.com. Now, go make an impact!

Mark Stiving

Thanks again to Jennings Executive Search for sponsoring our podcasts. If you’re looking to hire someone in pricing, I suggest contacting someone who knows pricing people. Contact Jennings Executive Search.

Tags: Accelerate Your Subscription Business, ask a pricing expert, pricing metrics, pricing strategy

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