Sales organizations are facing familiar challenges at unprecedented levels. There are top-line pressures impacting your organization’s profitability. These top-line pressures include “sameness,” technology, and a culture of cheap.
“Sameness” is the commoditization of products and services. “Sameness” is a combination of blending in and a lack of differentiation. Organizations sound, look, and feel the same. If everyone is the same, buyers focus on price when making decisions. Differentiation is a constant challenge. Our research shows that only 39 percent of salespeople believe they offer a solution that is meaningfully different.
When attempting to stand out, salespeople look at their competition and copy them. This creates more of the same. By focusing too much on the competition, you limit yourself to the edge of their creativity. Use your competition as the motivation to improve, not as the benchmark from which you improve. To battle sameness, answer this question: “What are our definable and defendable differences?”
Technology has given buyers greater access to information. Professional selling is a people business, but technology has de-personalized the experience. Technology has made purchasing more transactional. Technology has given birth to a plethora of online sellers offering customers multiple choices.
After reading this article, google the term “flooring contractor” or “flooring supplier.” You will get millions of results and plenty of pricing information. With technology, buyers have more transparency. In fact, many buyers scour the internet to establish a cheap anchor price. This cheap anchor price sets an expectation. It’s no wonder salespeople face constant pricing pressure.
We live in a culture of cheap where the word value has become a euphemism for the word cheap. A culture of cheapness intensifies pricing pressure. Buyers are trained to look for cheap prices. Retailers use low prices to attract shoppers. Once shoppers enter a store or go online, retailers reinforce cheap prices with clearance aisles and coupons. Buyers are taught to focus on price. When was the last time you watched a commercial and the company bragged about high prices?
Cheapness is now entertainment. You can watch Extreme Couponing on TLC or Down East Dickering on A&E. In each case, the focus is on cheap prices. These shows have glorified haggling and price shopping.
Salespeople have always faced the threat of a cheaper competitor. Today’s sales professional faces the same challenge at unprecedented levels. It might seem like price is the only way to compete, but it’s not. Our internal research shows that price is not the most important aspect of the solution. Buyers only focus on price in the absence of value. Here are some ideas to help you compete more profitably in today’s selling environment.
FOCUS ON SMALL WINS
When salespeople are approaching a new opportunity, it can be exciting. They are motivated and inspired to capture the big opportunity. Big opportunities excite, inspire, but eventually frustrate salespeople. Capturing a large opportunity takes time. There are setbacks and resistance. The best way to stay motivated and engaged is for salespeople to focus on the next best, immediate outcome they need to achieve. These next-best outcomes are called small wins.
Value-Added Selling is a consistent process. It’s not just one sales call, it’s a campaign filled with small wins. Small wins are concrete outcomes that lead to moderate progress. One small win might seem unimportant, but several small wins will generate momentum. Big opportunities are captured through small wins. Rather than focusing on the big victory, just focus on achieving the small wins that will lead to that big victory.
UNDERSTAND THE BUYER’S NEEDS
The best way to understand the buyer’s needs is to ask questions and listen. Ask the customer, “What do you expect from our products, our company, and our people?” Customer expectations are the true benchmark of satisfaction. Value-added sellers aim to exceed their customers’ expectations, but you cannot exceed expectations until you know what they are. From the very beginning, understand what your customers expect from your solution.
The three dimensions of value include the product, company, and people. The customer has different expectations for each dimension. If you understand their broader expectations, you have a better understanding of their needs. Asking this question also enlarges the conversation beyond just price.
Ask the customer to elaborate further with this question, “Fast forward to the end of this project. What does the ideal outcome look like?” When making a purchasing decision, most buyers want the best long-term solution. Yet, they get hung-up on short-term issues like price. To effectively sell your value-added solution, the buyer has to think long-term. When a buyer thinks long-term, they are less focused on price because they focus on outcomes.
SELL YOUR PERSONAL VALUE
Why should the customer buy from you, the salesperson? It’s shocking how little time we spend selling our personal value. In a recent study, we surveyed buyers about the importance of the salesperson. This group of buyers admitted that the salesperson represents 25 percent of the total value. If you’re not selling your personal value, you are missing 25 percent of the reason why they buy.
If you’re unsure about the personal value you bring, ask your best customers. Use these questions to generate a discussion with your top customers:
• Why do you buy from me versus other salespeople?
• How am I different than other salespeople?
• What can I do to create more value?
Our research on top-achieving salespeople shows that customers will brand their salespeople. They will refer to them as their “go-to rep” or the “in-house expert.” How would your customers brand you?
Sell your personal value by solving your customer’s problems. Price is less important when you solve a problem. Our research suggests that top-achieving salespeople are some of the best problem solvers. However, the customer’s problems are not always visible. Understanding the customer and your solution will make solvable problems more visible. To become a better problem solver, fully immerse yourself in the customer’s needs and become the expert in your industry.
You can still compete aggressively and profitably by selling value and not price. Value-Added Selling requires the commitment of everyone in the organization. Although the principles of Value-Added Selling remain timeless, some of the tactics have changed. Due to sameness and technology, buyers appear to be more price sensitive than ever. To overcome these challenges, salespeople must adopt a small-wins approach and understand the buyer’s needs. And, remember, you bring 25 percent of the value. g
Paul Reilly is a speaker, sales trainer, and co-author of Value-Added Selling, fourth edition (McGraw-Hill, 2018), and host of The Q and A Sales Podcast. For additional information on keynote presentations and seminars, call 636.778.0175 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit tomreillytraining.com and signup for a free newsletter.