Mastering Value-Based Selling: Personal vs. OperationalArticle by Colleen Francis, February 26, 2021
All value-based selling—when done effectively—is about correctly defining the benefits of your product or service based on what matters to your customer. As I like to regularly remind sellers and leaders: the only value that matters is what matters to the client. The better you are at defining this, the better you become at building a broad array of connections that improve your closing ratio.
In this series on mastering value-based selling, I’ve shown how important it is to see the task as one that has multiple inputs. In the previous article, I showed how you must zoom-in on tightly defined tangible and intangible benefits of your product or service.
Just as importantly, you also must zoom-out and show how one buying decision can have many positive ramifications that can cascade down through a team and through an entire organization.
To do that, look at value-based selling defined by personal and operational inputs.
We all know that selling is personal. It’s people that make buying decisions—not companies—so you must ensure the benefits appeal to their needs. That’s what Zig Ziglar was getting at years ago when he said the best way to get what we want is to first help others get what they want.
Understand what motivates every one of your customers. For instance, they might have KPIs that they need to meet every month, such as ensuring that their shop maintains a low number of workplace accidents.
Uncovering motivation can be as simple as asking a few direct questions about what metrics are being tracked or how to define and measure success directly with your contact. It can also be more detailed. Ask these and other probing questions to stakeholders, such as the finance team, executives, or director-level contacts. Define the approach that’s best for you based on your opportunity size. But in all cases, always ask enough questions to understand how the metrics that matter to them are measured.
Don’t take no for an answer! Everyone is measured against something in their jobs. That’s a mistake I made a number of years ago when I was selling software. I negotiated a fair price on a deal with my buyer, but then hit a brick wall when dealing with their purchasing group. Suddenly, they were demanding a discount! At first, it didn’t make sense to have that kind of objection arise after we’d already struck a deal. But then, I learned that the purchasing group earned financial incentives for every discount they earned. So, we had to change our pricing strategy to counteract the personal incentives we were up against. I would have saved much time and aggravation had I known this information upfront.
A corporation is, by definition, a single body comprising multiple parts. You must show that what you’re selling to one part of the business will have significant, positive benefits that carry over into other operational parts, too.
When you define value-based selling using operational inputs, you show how one positive change in one area of a business turns into multiple benefits in other parts of the organization. This accelerates their return on investment while ensuring you’re differentiated from the competition. A product or service that makes front-line staff more efficient, for example, also offers a benefit to human resources in that it results in lower turnover, less sick time taken, and fewer complaints. It benefits the CEO in that it delivers higher profits in less time. Additionally, it helps the sales division because it improves customer satisfaction, leading to repeat business.
I’ve seen a sales team employ this approach skillfully when selling to a client in the motorcoach business. Their solution helped to significantly reduce the amount of unscheduled maintenance that the company had become accustomed to in their operations. It was a costly problem. Every time a bus failed on the road or had to be pulled unexpectedly for maintenance, it hurt their profits, shortchanged their workers, and put a dent in their reputation as a reliable form of transit. The sales team created a compelling value proposition by asking: “Who else is helped by fixing this problem?”
You must pull together all inputs to make value-based selling work for you. Always lead with what matters most to your customer. Benefits sell; features serve. Μaster this approach to selling and watch your closing ratios drop and your sales target soar.