What is Value Consulting?

The first time I encountered Value Consulting as a title, it was early in my PreSales career working on a joint opportunity with a partner, CA Technologies. Our prospective customer was a large financial institution and our respective teams had done a great job of positioning both a comprehensive monitoring suite and capacity planning product to help support a key infrastructure consolidation initiative. We’d built strong relationships with executives and technical stakeholders and were presenting to the economic buyer and final decision maker and he made a comment that resulted in an uncomfortable pause in the room: “We’re going to need rock-solid business case to prioritize this project over all the other things we have to get done this year.”

It was a comment directed at the customer champion we’d been working with, as well as our teams. I was a little confused because I thought we had a very compelling set of use cases, strong technical solutions to their project challenges, great customer stories, and we all liked each other. What else would we need in a justification to get the deal over the line? As we debriefed after the meeting, the CA team said that we should engage their Business Value Consulting (BVC) team to help close out the deal. This was a role I was unfamiliar with, but working with them we went back to the economic buyer a few weeks later and won the business. I was impressed.

Since that time, I’ve worked in some capacity with BVC teams at least 20 highly regarded tech companies, built out my own teams, and helped startups establish their value consulting practices as a consultant and advisor. All that being said, one of the most common questions I get asked about the Business Value Consulting role is - “What is Value Consulting?”

Value Consulting Explained

There are a few variants in the titles for these roles - Business Value Consultant, Value Consultant, Value Engineer, Business Value Architect, and others I’m sure. The common component they all tend to have is the word “Value” in there somewhere. For the purpose of this blog, let’s stick with Value Consultant. Titles aside, what do these teams do exactly?

My recommendation for figuring out what any function does is to ask for the team charter. Unfortunately, that’s a rarity to find (a topic for another blog) so let’s talk about the types of things that they do. Most Value Consulting teams perform some or all of these activities:

  • Interview prospective customers in later stages of a deal to help build a joint business case with them in close partnership with Account Executives (AEs) and Solution Engineers (SEs)

  • Build outside-in business cases to support later stages of a deal working with the account team (AE + SE) without any customer interviews and instead utilizing publicly available information, and benchmarks from industry / other customers

  • Help support a challenging customer renewal with a value realized estimation exercise

  • Present business cases to economic buyers

  • Provide guidance on how to structure the commercials of a complicated deal in line with a business case that they’ve helped build

  • Work with marketing teams in building out the value components of customer case studies (could be outside-in or interview based)

  • Assist account teams with deal strategy and identify need for business cases in their pipeline, acting as a deal qualification sounding board

These teams can be critical to get complex, strategic, and large deals over the line for tech companies. There’s no shortage of awe inspiring stories of a deal that was brought in by engaging a value consultant who built a compelling business case & commercial structure that resulted in a huge win for their company.

Quantitative AE/SE vs. Management Consultant

I’ve run across two main types of backgrounds for value consultants - the quantitative AE/SE and the management consultant. The former tends to be someone who is grounded heavily in product, has great discovery skills, and a knack for customer empathy that allows them to build easy to understand business value models. The latter tend to have great benchmarking strengths, process & business transformation design skills, and can build comprehensive value models and deal structures.

For new value consulting practices, I recommend starting with an AE or SE who demonstrates the aptitude for this type of work and building from there. For larger practices a blend of both types of personalities is common and how the team develops winds up largely being dependent on leadership of the team and reporting structure.

Speaking of reporting structure, because this function tends to be a bit niche, it’s not consistent on where these teams report to. I’ve seen high performance teams reporting to SE leadership, VP of Sales, CRO, CCO, COO, Field Services, Marketing, and CFOs. Where the team lands is largely dependent on what triggered its creation. And over time it’s not uncommon for the team to migrate to different places with the most common settling location being reporting up to a VP Sales or CRO at scale.

All of the discussion in this blog reflects the most common value consulting practices that I see out in the world today. These practices build on a lot of the approaches developed in the on-prem software & software license + annual maintenance world, but they aren’t SaaS & subscription revenue native. Just as AE, SE, CSM roles have evolved, value consulting needs to as well. That’s where Value Engineering as a reimagined discipline built on the learnings from Value Consulting comes in. That’s a topic for the next blog.

Abbas Haider Ali is currently VP Customer Success & Value Engineering at Segment. Past roles he has held include Field CTO, sales engineering, customer success, consulting services, product management, product strategy, product marketing, and business development. He enjoys the opportunity to bring his expertise to other enterprise startups both as a management consultant as well as an advisor. Connect with Abbas on LinkedIn!