I had an interesting conversation recently with someone who has a deep sales, marketing and communications background. He’s worked for a couple of household names. You’d recognize them. If you’ve been in finserv for a while, you would probably recognize him.
He asked an interesting question: “why all the focus on value selling on your Thoughts On Selling podcast? I don’t get it.”
When I started to explain value selling to him, he cut me off. “Doesn’t everybody sell this way? In professional services we’ve always focused on the customer.”
That got me thinking. What’s the difference between selling a product and selling a service?
With a product, you can point to its attributes – size, color, horsepower, storage capacity, number of CPUs or circuits, whether the LEDs are surface mounted, etc.
With a service, you have nothing to point to. It’s an intangible. It doesn’t exist outside of the experience of the service delivery (except perhaps for the simple “Want me to cut your grass?”…and even there value prop there is pretty obvious.
So…why do we focus on product attributes of the product rather than its ultimate value to the user?
Frankly, we’re lazy.
It’s what engineering driven/led organizations focus on…because it’s comfortable. It’s what the founders understand.
And we’re swept up in the competitive leapfrog of “my widget is 10% shinier than the other company’s widget.”
We count on the prospect/buyer/user to make the jump from “high performance fabric” to “completing my analytics job this morning rather than tomorrow afternoon or next week.” And that requires another couple of jumps…”if i can run many more analytics jobs (what-ifs) I can make better business decisions to improve product quality or employee retention or marketing efficacy or stock investments…which results in a higher bonus for me.”
When I ran marketing, business development and sales enablement for an early cloud provider, we never talked about the technology behind our offerings. For our customers it was simply magic. Our focus was solely on helping clients to build scalable, performant environments so that they could provide up to date information to their subscribers. Major League Baseball didn’t care how we did it, just that their subscribers would have a seamless experience from spring training to the last game of the World Series.
Most decision makers today don’t care how things work, just that they deliver on their brand promise. The market is noisy and crowded, confusing buyers. Further, most buyers of larger ticket items (new ERP system, for instance) may have zero experience with evaluating and selecting a system and the details simply distract them, leading to “No Decision.”
As sales leaders or sales enablers, we need to understand our buyers’ challenges and opportunities, to empathize with them, and to shape our conversations and messaging accordingly.
One CIO told me: “I don’t care how much better this is than our current environment; I’m not asking my team to learn another set of tools. They just don’t have the bandwidth.” Clearly we hadn’t focused enough on the autonomous part of our Autonomous Data Warehouse offering conversation, describing how his team would not have to learn anything new.
Conversely, when I talked with the head of operations at a major airlines about the possibility of moving his analytics from a batched 24 hour look-back (what happened yesterday), to a realtime view of his operations (what’s happening right now), he said this: “You can do that? I’ll take two!” In this case, we had connected with his strategic goal of substantively improving his operational abilities.
Here’s the jumping off point.
- If you’re still “solution selling,” you’re losing 30-40% of your opportunities to organizations that have embraced value selling. Maybe more.
- And…if you’ve recently implemented value selling, most of your sales people are still solution selling, or worse yet, still pitching features. Been there, seen that.
Because…value selling is not a thing to implement. It’s a mindset, one that has to be shared from the top down. When it’s done right, I’ve seen individual sales people grow their individual deal sizes by an order of magnitude or two. And when as CSO I implemented it at a mature business services firm, we increased sales by 75% in just over a year.
Where are you in this journey?