Over the past few months, a number of senior sales leaders have reached out for help, stating “we want to implement value selling.”
They see value selling as a tool to unlock more value (revenue) or to improve their pipeline or to gain a competitive selling edge.
They are on the right path…value selling can certainly have a net positive impact on revenue, pipeline and competitiveness.
However, their perception of value selling and how it’s implemented is a bit short sighted. Value selling is not a thing. You don’t “implement value selling.”
Value Selling Is Not a Tool
First and foremost, value selling is not a tool; rather, it’s a mindset. Value selling is a way of thinking about how to engage with customers and requires a broad organizational commitment to putting the customer first.
Value selling focuses on the customer’s strategic business goals (not technology habits). It focuses on the firmagraphics (the culture) of the buying entity (first mover/late adopter, risk taker/risk adverse, etc). It considers the needs/wants/desires of the individual stakeholders and contributors to the buying process. Value selling requires a specific focus on the use of language to align with those entities.
As a result, value selling is not something easily boiled down to Step One, Step Two, Step Three…
Instead, a value selling approach should be baked into onboarding, selling preparation, communications, actions and activities. And it requires an organization-wide change management process.
Start With Opportunity and Account Planning
Opportunity planning and development, and its cousin, account planning, are great places to start.
Traditional opportunity planning starts with a profile of the target customer (focusing on installed base and potential budget) and the questions “what can we sell them and how much share can we steal from a competitor?” As this approach is highly transactional and competitive, it leads to sales with low profitability and mediocre customer satisfaction ratings. Sound familiar?
Value centered opportunity planning also starts with a profile of the target customer, but with a focus on strategic business goals, the gaps between goals and capabilities and the motivations of the organization and the key stakeholders. Reps or teams consider how they can help the organization to achieve these goals, independent of any product or service offering (Solution development comes much later.)
Value selling involves co-creation with the customer, and in many, perhaps most cases, doesn’t have much impact on existing vendor relationships. It tends to focus on net-new value creation, generating far larger impact and results than a simple vendor substitution might.
There’s no comparison of vendors’ TCO in value selling. It’s just not relevant. That’s pocket fluff in comparison to the impact true co-creation offers. Why focus on shaving 10% in operating costs if the project could lead to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction or manufacturing quality. Most of the senior executives, the decision makers in a strategic project, will focus on the latter.
The team must consider “are we well positioned to help the customer achieve their goals?” Once the organizational goals are identified, the reps or teams develop an influence map that details the key stakeholders, the strength of the relationships, and an action plan to further develop those relationships. Finally, the team develops powerful messaging that emphasizes alignment and ability of the team to help the organization achieve their strategic goals, and the ability of the individual stakeholders to meet their personal goals.
As with any strategic sales improvement project, the assistance of a knowledgeable sales enablement sherpa to provide direction and to carry the load is critical. If you don’t get value selling right the first time, you won’t get a second chance. Senior management…and the sales team…will move on to other shiny new objects.