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Crafting Powerful VBR’s with Emily Estey

Crafting Powerful VBR’s with Emily Estey
Brent Tripp
Crafting Powerful VBR’s with Emily Estey


In this episode, we're exploring how to go about creating valid business reasons (aka VBR’s) that are truly compelling, and that clearly convey the reason why people should want to meet with you.

We ask questions like what are some top tips to think about when crafting a VBR, what are some common mistakes to avoid, and how should sales leaders coach their sellers in developing VBRs?

Joining Dani to help break it down is Emily Estey, VP, Senior Consultant at The Center for Sales Strategy.

Emily brings up some great points from her years of experience, like:

  • Why a solid VBR should communicate three aspects empathy, expertise and problem-solving ability.

  • How a solid VBR is not about you. It's about the prospect.

  • And, finally, why thinking like a consumer can provide some of the greatest insights when creating a valid business reason.


What Are Valid Business Reasons and Why Are They Important?

“Let's start with the basics,” Dani says. “Let's get everybody on the same page. What is a valid business reason? How are they used, and why are they important?”

“Yeah,” Emily says. “I mean, simply stated, it's the reason why people would want to meet with you, right? What reason are we giving so people would want to meet with us?

“They’re typically used to get an initial appointment. We want to set the stage, even before we actually meet with someone, that we can be a trusted and valued partner.

“So, I think a lot of people assume that when they're trying to reach out to somebody and trying to connect with somebody, that that's not an opportunity to show that they offer insights, that they can be a trusted partner, that they add value to the conversation, and a valid business reason helps us do that even before we've had the opportunity to meet with someone. So that's why it's important.”

Your VBR’s Should Express Empathy, Expertise, and Problem-Solving Ability

“What tips do you have for salespeople that are creating valid business reasons?” Dani asks. “What steps or best practices should they be following?”

Emily says, “You know, there's a really fine balance between writing a great VBR and brevity, right?

“I always say there are three things we really want to accomplish with the VBR. We want to express empathy, we want to express expertise, and the last thing is problem solving capability.

“I always tell people to try to do those three things in two sentences, one to three sentences. So, it's really just fairly short.

And you know, there's just all kinds of places to research. You can use category briefs on our website. I'm going to give that pitch because we do have tons of insights within those. And the reason we created those, was to make writing VBR’s easier.

But you know, researching on Google, all of that sort of stuff, like researching the person that you're trying to get in touch with the decision maker. You're kind of figuring out the target persona for that person. But we don't want to go too deep. We want to go deep enough that we are bringing value to the conversation.

“Yeah,” Dani says. “So, it doesn't feel generic. This is a unique email to this person that we’re talking about, right?”

“That's right,” Emily says.

“Can you give us an example of a good one?” Dani asks.

“I have one right here,” Emily says. “It’s for somebody in the banking industry, and it is actually a couple of sentences [that demonstrate] expertise, empathy, and problem-solving ability. I'm reading right now from the script.

“It says, ‘Hi there, as a leader in the banking industry, it seems, from what I'm reading, you've got a lot on your plate. You're probably thinking that's an understatement...’

“That's the empathy piece.

“‘Recently, I saw an article that stated that transformation is the key to the banking industry's future. It went on to say that, to be most effective, banks and financial institutions should redefine themselves as agile technology companies in the financial services industry, not the other way around. I found that to be eye-opening, and I'm interested in your thinking as it pertains to that...’

“That's the expertise piece.

‘I have worked with several similar-sized banks and financial institutions to help them create campaigns to help the end user understand and maximize the technologies they're investing in. One of the banks I work with was focused on mobile app downloads for a new product they were taking to market. They saw an 83% increase in those downloads by the end of the campaign...’

“That's the problem-solving piece, of course, always asking for the meeting.

‘I'd like to set a meeting with you, either face-to-face or virtually.’ Give them a couple choices. ‘Does Monday or Thursday work better for you?’ Give them something to say yes or no to.

“But those are the three ways that we want to do that. Use that framework to write the VBR.”

“Love it, love it,” Dani says. “And it has me thinking, I can't take off my inbound marketing hat because it's always on for me, I love that you're referencing a piece of content, this was a third-party piece of content, an article that they read on the industry, probably from a trusted source.

“And also, sometimes, if your company is blogging and creating really valuable content, that could be the VBR. ‘Hey, we recently did this research study on this,’ or ‘we recently wrote about this topic about a customer similar to you that you might like,’ or whatever it might be.”

“Absolutely,” Emily says.

VBR No No’s

“We talked about what to do,” Dani says. “What about ‘what not to do?’ What are some common mistakes that you see people making when they're trying to develop VBRs, and how can they avoid them?”

"I mean, talking about themselves,” Emily says. “Talking about their product...selling before they've proved any value. If they've earned the opportunity to sell, they're already selling.

“You know, ‘I work for such and such company and we have this product. It's amazing. I think you'd really like it. We also have this product too. This is why we do what we do...’ People just tune that out.

“What I always tell people is, ‘would you respond to what you're writing?’ Be the filter, or have your colleague be the filter. Would you actually respond to that initial VBR, to that initial email? And if you wouldn't, then you probably should go back to the drawing board.

“But I think talking about ourselves or our product or our company...that's just not insightful.”

“Talking about ourselves...that's the number one thing that I see, and I see it a lot, and I think we do that because that's what we know, right? We reference what we know.

“Digging in and referencing something that that client may not know, that's really what we're looking for.”

AI Can Help You Get Started When Writing a VBR, But You Still Need to Add Your Own Personal Touch

“So, I apparently can't have an episode on this season without talking about AI,” Dani says. “That's what we're doing right now. So, how do you think AI can help with creating VBRs? Are you seeing anything there?”

“I sure am,” Emily says. “I did a presentation for one of the companies that I work with on the subject, on VBRs, then, prior to the meeting, i had typed in to [ChatGPT] something like, ‘write a letter from a marketing professional to a bank.’

“And then I just got more and more specific. I said, ‘write a VBR that expresses empathy, expertise and problem solving capability to a bank coming from a marketing professional.’ It’s unbelievable. I mean, it’s really amazing.

“Obviously, that's always the caveat with AI. You’ve got the little asterisks, read through it, make it shorter, because, generally, they can be fairly long.

“The other thing, too, is, when we're talking about problem-solving capability...If we're talking about a success story, we want to be specific about the success. AI is not going to do that for you.

“I mentioned in the example VBR that we increased downloads by 83%. You don't want to say, ‘we work with lots of people and they hve great success.’ That's what AI will say.

“I love that you mentioned that,” Dani says. “A lot of people do ‘good enough VBRs,’ and I think that's the one thing I see the most is that they’re a little too general about stuff like that. Just missing either a data point or at least a link to something, a case study or whatever, something that like backs this up.”

“Right,” Emily says. “Be specific, have a real story.”

Hold Regular VBR Audits with Your Team

“Let's talk to sales leaders now,” Dani says. “What tips do you have for leaders when it comes to coaching and helping salespeople with the process of developing VBRs? Because I know that matters a lot, so what are some proven ways you've seen?”

“I think they need to know the framework,” Emily says. “They need to know what we're going for, and they do. The managers that I work with, they generally know what a great VBR sounds like, but we often don't, as managers, get involved this early in the process.

“We've always said for years at The Center for Sales Strategy that the end depends on the beginning, and I think that's really true.

“I think one of the things that I think is a really great exercise is to do a VBR audit. There's not a manager out there that can watch every VBR that goes out. That's an impossible task, but they can take a window of time, like over the next two weeks.

“Show me every VBR that's going out the door, just so that I can kind of get a snapshot of what we're saying and how I can help improve what we're talking about. Even if it's just a week, send me your VBRs through this time or just put them all in a Word document.

“I think that is a really great idea because that's how you can really clearly know what's going out the door, who needs help with what, and how to insert yourself into making those VBR’s consistent and engaging. You can make sure that we're saying the right things right at the beginning.

“Yeah,” Dani says. “With an emphasis on like, ‘this is to help you. This is so I can find where to support you.’ You know, I think I could see managers doing that and then it feeling like, ‘Mike, what are you doing?’ And you really have to own that. This is to support them. Not to catch them doing something wrong.”

Emily says, “And I think that's all about normalizing that kind of coaching.”

“We do a VBR audit every quarter. A VBR audit every quarter tells people, ‘it's going to happen. Here's why it's happening. I'm here to help that sort of conversation.’”

When Writing a VBR, Think Like a Consumer

“To close us out,” Dani says. “Are there any parting thoughts, anything we didn't touch on, that you want to be sure we pass along?”

Emily says, “There’s one piece of advice that I always say to people is, ‘Think like a consumer.’ Those can be some of the most powerful VBRs.

“I've told this story so many times, but it's just so powerful to me. Years ago, I was working with a seller in Richmond, Virginia, and she was talking about some restaurant she went frequented. She's like, ‘My husband and I go there all the time, and we can bring the kids. They have a great wine list, but they also have crayons and things to color on for my kids, and the menu’s great and, anyway, I just can't think of a VBR.’

“I was like, ‘You kind of just said one.’

“So, make sure that it's kind of that ‘wallet marketing’ idea. You have, as a salesperson, a vast array of experiences outside your job. Use those experiences to help you craft your insight. Maybe you are going to a restaurant and you notice that the dinner crowd's really busy but the lunch crowd isn't. Those kinds of things.

“Use your own consumer behavior to help you as you craft VBRs. I think those can be some of the most powerful VBR’s.”

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Brent Tripp
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