Imagine a plastic water bottle.  The one sitting on your desk, or in the fridge, or the half-empty one that’s rolled under your passenger seat.  What’s the value of that water?

value of water in the desertIt depends.

If you have access to safe drinking water coming out of the tap, the value is negligible, arising from marginally better taste or convenience. If we take into account the environmental impact of the plastic and he transportation, the value might well be negative.

On the other hand, if your tap water is unhealthy, not to mention if there’s no tap to be seen, that bottled water may be what keeps you out of the hospital. For many, safe drinking water can be the difference beween life and death.


For bottled water and for just about any other product, the value stems from the context whithin which the product is used.  That means proving your product or service has value begins with a deep understanding of your buyer’s context.

For corporate buyers, context is comprised of 4 things.

The 4 Dimensions of B2B Buyer Context

1. Use Cases
Customers may have multiple ways to use your solution.  Each use case encompasses specific objectives, processes, systems, and metrics.  Understading which use cases are the most critical to your customer and how they relate to fundamental business metrics is the most important analysis you can do to effectively articulate the value you offer.

2. Their Internal Environment
What’s happening inside your prospect’s organization influences decision-maker behavior.  Is there a new initiative or compensation plan that is leading to re-shuffling of priorities? What organizational, technology, or process changes are in process or on the horizaon? When and how does the company allocate budgets, and at what level in the organization are approvals required? Do they have a quick or lengthy purchasing process?

3. The People Involved in the Decision
Many companies still capture leads as individual contacts, and leave it to the sale team to “map” the account to identify enveryone who is likely to participate in decision-making.  Beyond names and titles, understanding their mindsets, relationships, objectives, and agendas are all helpful in pinpointing the champions who will see the greatest value in your product, and then equipping them to advocate on your behalf.

4. Their External Environment
External factors also influence your buyer’s situation and decision-making. From the economic climate and competitor behavior to advances in technology or anticipated legislation, it’s important to understand what’s going on in the world your customer inhabits.  This level of understanding is tablel stakes – necessary, but insufficient without the previous three categories.

This borad and deep grasp of the customer’s context helps crystalize the specific role your solution will play in achieving customer goals. The resulting contextual value  stems from the impact you’re promising to make,  rather than from any specific features of the product. And that’s really what the highest level decision-maker cares about.