How Sellers Create Value Through Tough Times

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What value do you personally bring? This is a gut-check question. It forces you to think of all the ways you add value to the buyer’s business. Top-achieving salespeople easily can answer this question where other sellers struggle. Top achievers demonstrate their value and remind buyers of the positive impact they have on the customer’s business.

If the extent of your value is a weekly drop-in asking buyers, “You don’t need anything today, do you?” you are creating zero value. You’re creating negative value because you wasted the buyer’s time. These sellers typically mask their ineptitude under the blanket of service and support. Every interaction is an opportunity to create personal value for the buyer. Some sellers seize the opportunity, while others do not.

Our research shows that the salesperson represents a significant amount of value. Buyers were asked how much of the decision is weighted on the product, the company, and the salesperson. Buyers indicated the company represents 18 percent, the product represents 57 percent, and the seller represents 25 percent. If you’re not selling your personal value, you’re missing out on 25 percent of the reason customers buy. The only limit to the value you create is the edge of your imagination. There are as many ways to add value as there are sellers to create it. Here are some ideas to create more personal value.

Knowledgeable expertise

Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This platitude may be true, but not if you’re in sales. In our research on top achievers, customers selected knowledgeable expertise as the most important attribute of the salesperson. Knowledge even ranked higher than trustworthiness.

So, what is knowledge? Is it knowing your product? Your customer? Your industry? Yes, yes, and yes. It’s not enough to just know your products or services. Immerse yourself in the customer’s world, your business, and the industry. Get to know every facet of the industry. Get to know the nuances of your company and the customer’s world. Your currency to the customer is your expertise. In tough times, the value of this currency increases. Buyers partner with knowledgeable sellers to navigate this uncertain world.

Are you a student of your profession? Do you dedicate enough time to research your company, products, and industry? Top achievers build an inventory of insights. You gain an encyclopedic knowledge throughout your career that creates value for your customer. What you learn is like inventory on the shelf. That inventory of knowledge continues to grow all through your tenure. But with knowledge, you never run out of room, and it never expires. At the right time, you simply pull that inventory. Fill those shelves!

Problem Solving

Within every problem is an opportunity to create value. The more pain the problem causes,
the greater the opportunity. One of the most impactful ways to create value is by solving a customer’s major problem. Good sellers solve problems when the customers ask for their help. However, customers often are unaware of a problem. Great sellers partner with customers and uncover problems they didn’t know existed. The hidden problems often have the greatest impact on the buyer’s business.

In our research on top achievers, customers selected knowledgeable expertise as the most important attribute of the salesperson. Knowledge even ranked higher than trustworthiness.

Solving problems is more than providing customers with proposals. Don’t look for products to quote; look for problems to solve. Explore problems like an investigative journalist. Ask questions, research, talk to new contacts and expose problems. In tough times, buyers face more problems and challenges than they do in good economic times. Problems are prioritized, meaning some are overlooked. The best sellers identify and solve those ignored problems.

Get things done

In tough times, companies are strained for resources – forced to do more with less. This leads to hiccups in the customer experience. Sellers must make the same promises to customers but with fewer resources, creating a bottleneck in the customer experience. Salespeople must step up and expand their capabilities to meet the customer’s expectations. Sellers need to get things done.

This requires a deeper understanding of how your organization operates. Getting things done for your customers requires working with your internal customers. Internal customers are team members that support the customer – directly or indirectly. Internal customers include inside sales, customer service, engineers, tech support, operations, and the credit department, to name a few. Learn the nuances of your internal processes. Identify ways to make your internal customers’ lives easier. Work with your team, not against them, to get things done.

During tough times, customers expect sellers to make things happen. If there are supply shortages, you need to deliver. If you need managerial approval, get the approval. If your team needs a kick in the tail to deliver, then start kicking. Customers want to work with sellers that get things done.

Adaptable sellers look for ways to improve. Tough times create new demands, constraints, customer expectations, and opportunities. Buyers raise their expectations in tough times. Tough times force you to expand your capabilities to meet the ever-growing demands of buyers. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” In a similar way, your capacity to create value is stretched through tough times. But when tough times subside, your new capacity to create value remains. Tough times broaden and elevate your capabilities. Embrace this opportunity to create more personal value for the customer.

Paul Reilly is a speaker, sales trainer, author of Selling Through Tough Times (McGraw-Hill, Fall 2021), coauthor of Value-Added Selling, fourth edition (McGraw-Hill, 2018), and host of The Q and A Sales Podcast. For additional information on Reilly’s keynote presentations and seminars, call 636.778.0175 or email Visit and complete the 30-Day Tough-Timer Challenge.

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