Every salesperson has heard the phrase “value-based selling”, but other than being told to provide value when selling, there is little direction and instruction on how to do it, or what qualifies as value.
The Brooks Group defines value as:
You’ll notice right away that when it comes to providing value, perception is everything — which will serve as the first (and arguably most important) tip for salespeople to understand.
Tip #1: Understand That Value Is Subjective
It is the customer—not the salesperson—who determines value. Yes, every salesperson has a list of product features and benefits, but every buyer has a list of things they need and a list of things they want.
The salesperson has to ask questions to uncover those customer needs and wants.
The words “needs” and “wants” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are vastly different things. A need is rational. It’s easy to identify because it’s fact-oriented and based on your specific product or service. Wants, on the other hand, are personal. They exist beneath the surface and are based on emotion and each individual customer’s perception. They sometimes have nothing to do with your product or service at all, making them less obvious to identify.
As you talk about the challenges your customer is facing and the general value your product offers, be sure to ask questions that dive deeper to uncover the unique wants of the customer in front of you.
What major challenge is the customer currently facing? How does that challenge impact their goals and objectives? What would it mean for the company or to themself personally if you could help them overcome that challenge? The answer to that last question will likely uncover what the customer really wants.
Tip #2: Realize Not All Accounts Are Created Equal
Salespeople will save a lot of time when they learn that every account isn’t worth the same amount of their time and attention.
Two good questions to ask are “what’s the payoff”, and “how well am I positioned”? Payoff can be described as growth potential, profitability, and how much account maintenance is needed to win or keep the business. Positioning measures how well the customer appreciates the value you provide (more on that later), and how closely aligned your companies are when it comes to corporate philosophy and values.
Invest more time “selling value” to high payoff, high positioning accounts, and less time with accounts that are low payoff, low positioning.
Tip #3: Utilize a Clear and Organized Account Management Approach
Once you know where to spend your time, you need an account management plan. This doesn’t have to be a complex exercise, the goal is to take a moment and write down what you know about an account, who you know in that account, where you think opportunities are, and how you can begin working on them.
What do you know? Where are the gaps? How can you fill them?
This may not be something a traditional “hunter” type is comfortable doing and is definitely something the strongly analytical types can dig too deep into. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s more about briefly slowing down to take a strategic look at your account to create a plan to win future business, profitably.
Tip #4: Understand Where Your Customer Is on the Decision Pyramid
If value is based on perception, then it’s important to know each customer’s decision-making process or rationale for buying. To help with this, we think of customers falling into one of three categories on the Decision Pyramid.
Category one at the top of the pyramid is your Chief-something-Officers or CxOs. They care about strategic direction. Category two are the directors, department heads, or middle managers. They care about implementation and results. Category three comprises front-line workers, who usually have no direct reports, and they care about simplicity, minimizing change, and maintaining the status quo.
This is relevant when selling value because a CEO isn’t likely going to see value in a lengthy product demonstration about how simple your product is to use, and the purchasing department probably won’t see value that your product can improve the company’s bottom line by 2%.
Tip #5: Identify Your Customers’ Behavior Styles
Similarly to how customers have unique motives for buying products, they also have unique behavior styles for engaging in conversation. I wrote about this previously in an article called Do You Have the Right Talent in the Right Seats?, so I’ll keep things high-level here.
Essentially, people are either high energy or reserved, and they are either more formal and focused on results, or a bit more informal and focused on relationships.
People will pay closer attention to you when you match their pace and focus on what’s important to them. Someone who is results-focused will find data and case studies valuable, while someone who is relationship-focused will find testimonials and anecdotal stories valuable. Your job is to learn how to recognize people’s behavior styles and match their style when talking with them.
Tip #6: See Yourself as Part of the Value Formula
Hopefully, you already see yourself as a valuable benefit your customer gets when they decide to do business with you.
Your personal positioning as a strategic resource is often more important to customers than the positioning of your solutions or the company you work for. You can turn yourself into a strategic resource by understanding your customer’s competitors, industry, future trends, and learning their business acumen.
You can share feedback about products and services customers were considering before deciding to purchase from you. Conduct market research, and write, share, and collaborate with subject matter experts on topics that your customers want to hear about. You can send out how-to tips, or post short videos on social media.
Don’t try to do all of this at once. Ask yourself what is something you can do to provide personal value to your customers that they can benefit from when they choose to do business with you and then start doing it!
Tip #7: Connect the Dots for Customers
There is a great saying that hope is not a strategy.
If you take the time to ask the right questions so a customer specifically verbalizes what they perceive as valuable, and what they need and want — then don’t leave it to chance or simply hope they’ll connect the dots on how your solution gives them what they need and want!
When presenting a solution to a customer, make sure to articulate back exactly how your product or service delivers value for the customer. If a customer tells you they need to minimize downtime so they can improve customer satisfaction scores, put a slide in your presentation with a big, bold title that reads “Minimizing Downtime & Improving Customer Satisfaction Scores”. Then explain how your product can be the means to that end.
Don’t leave it up to chance for your customer to draw these conclusions on their own. This is also a great reason for why you don’t want to email a presentation to a customer, without being present (whether in-person or virtually) to connect the dots.
You can also further personalize your presentation with their logo, company colors, and industry-specific imagery.
Do You Need Help Communicating the Value of What You Sell?
Given all the macro-events and disruption sellers are facing in today’s marketplace, your salespeople and their numbers are most likely a little bit down. We talk with clients every day who express how hard it is to motivate their sales teams and continue selling in the face of all this uncertainty. The Brooks Group offers training and assessments that help sales teams overcome their current challenges. We would love to hear about how your organization is handling today’s sales obstacles, and see if our facilitators can help you progress through them even faster.