Materials from the toolbox
You will make more sales if your prospects, customers, and associates remember you when it’s time to buy, to renew, or to make a recommendation/referral to others in their networks. There are many ways to become more memorable in sales. This one is the fastest, surest way.
Create value in every sales interaction
Created value is not the same as added value. Expectations are significantly greater than they used to be, driven by demanding buyers who are looking for something unique, personalized, relevant, and meaningful.
Added value is now expected in the course of regular business. It is no longer a differentiator since every sales organization adds value in some fashion, through buyer incentives, no-cost add-ons, loyalty programs, and giveaways. Added value involves taking something with value and adding it on for the buyer. It’s mostly up to companies to authorize these giveaways and add-ons.
Buyer demand for value creation has come about through a trickle-down effect. Companies began focusing on value creation to meet shareholder demands as competition escalated for many industries in the 1970s and 1980s. Now, 30-40 years later, consumers have followed this same pattern of wanting more, and they want it to come directly from their sellers.
What makes this challenging for sellers is that buyers don’t directly ask for value creation. Most buyers don’t even think in those terms. All they know is they want a little something more, something different from what everybody else is already getting, something that makes them feel special.
Take a look at this table from my book DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected (page 22) to better understand the differences between value, added value, and created value. Give yourself and your company a quick evaluation – what value do you deliver and which type of value could you increase?
With each one of your buyers, consider the question: “What is value creation going to mean for this unique buyer at this moment in time?”. This is how you’ll begin to create value and deliver it with a meaningful and relevant experience for each buyer.
Created value happens in human-to-human exchanges. It’s not pre-fabricated, manufactured, one-size-fits-all, or plug-and-play. It’s special, unique to the individual buyer. That’s what makes it memorable.
How to create relevant value for every buyer
To create value, you must first know what would be of value to an individual buyer. Learning about a buyer’s needs, interests, and motivators is more important than ever and should be a routine part of your discovery process. It all starts with asking purposeful, high-quality questions. It’s the same as the needs assessment you’re already doing, except that you’re not looking for needs related to your product. With this value-creating discovery, you’re looking for individual preferences and “hot buttons”.
Once you know what will be valued by this unique individual, you’ll find a way to create a personalized, relevant, and meaningful value for that buyer. Here are some examples of created value, observed recently while conducting in-field sales coaching.
- A seller learned on LinkedIn that her prospect was a volunteer leader in the Girl Scouts organization. The seller had a history in Girl Scouts and knew that their cookie-selling season was about to begin. She requested that the prospect bring five boxes of Thin Mints to the meeting so she could buy them for her office. She also offered to do a mini sales-training for the leader’s group to launch their cookie-selling season. The seller invested 90 minutes in preparing and conducting that training, and she spent $25 on cookies. In return, she got the meeting she’d been working more than a year to secure. And, within three months, she also won the business (worth $1.2 million at signing). She said it was high value for her, too, as she enjoyed conducting sales training for eight-year-old girls.
- A seller noticed during a discovery call that the prospect was distracted and somewhat sensitive about questions related to department performance. He said “I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but you’re reminding me of what I feel like when I’m under a lot of pressure to meet goal. Why don’t you tell me about that pressure?” It was like a dam burst, with a torrent of emotions and information coming from the prospect. At the end of it, the relieved prospect said “I guess I really needed to get that off my chest. Thanks for listening.” The seller invested five minutes in listening (all the while gathering useful information). He said it was emotionally draining for him, too, but that he sensed a strong bond had formed with the buyer. Sure enough, the prospect took his next call. Since then, they’ve been collaborating for several weeks to craft the full-scale solution needed to address the performance gaps in that buyer’s department and on the executive team.
- A seller decided to go back to all her established customers and ask the “I” question from DISCOVER Questions®(I stands for Issue Questions, and those are the questions sellers ask to avoid or solve issues that buyers may have with them). For the seller, this was a proactive move to get ahead of any potential dissatisfaction or concerns before contract renewal time. She asked one long-time customer: “What would you like me to be doing differently to support you?”. The customer paused, blinked twice, sighed, and then reached into her desk and pulled out a folder. She thanked the seller for asking and then shared a list of complaints. She had been getting some pressure to go in a different direction, and she’d been preparing a list of pros/cons for moving to another vendor. This seller invested just seconds in asking a vulnerable question. Had she not asked, she never would have known that trouble was brewing. The buyer would not have shared this information until a decision had already been made and, potentially, the business had already been lost. Instead, the seller was able to address the problems before renewal time. What’s more, she created value by bringing this to the forefront. It was a relief to the buyer who didn’t feel comfortable opening the candid conversation.
These examples are among the more dramatic ones. You can also create value in an instant just by asking a thought-provoking question, listening with empathy, offering insights, and collaborating with buyers to brainstorm for new ideas.
When you create value, the value is memorable and you are, too.
How can I learn more about value creation for buyers?
If you’ve never studied value selling, that’s a good place to start. On The Sales Experts Channel, you’ll find hundreds of webinars from dozens of global sales experts. Check out the archives for on-demand presentations – they’re all free, and there are numerous ones that explore value.
You may also want to read Value Propositions that Sell by Lisa Dennis or Beat the Bots by Anita Nielsen. Both will help you think from the customer’s perspective so you can have a better sense of what will be of value to them. DISCOVER Questions Get You Connected, named by HubSpot as one of “The Top 20 Most Highly Rated Sales Books of All Time,” will also be a good resource for you.
The important thing to remember is that value creation does not need to be expensive, time-consuming, or difficult. It can be easy and rewarding if you are willing to take the time and really listen for subtle cues from your buyers.
The best tool for value creation is empathetic listening. You’ve probably heard about active listening, but this is yet another level to aspire to. Listening is what you do with your ears. Active listening is when you engage your brain to process and fully comprehend the content of what’s being said. Empathetic listening is listening with your heart, too, to understand the emotional context and feelings being conveyed.
Within those emotions, you’ll find a wealth of information about your buyers. You’ll be able to discern what their priorities are, what they prefer to work on vs. what work they’d rather avoid, and what level of commitment they have to ideas you offer.
By listening with empathy and responding more fully to your buyers, you will do three things:
- You’ll create value in an instant. The conversation itself will have value for the buyer.
- You’ll make yourself memorable. Positively differentiating yourself makes you stand out from the sea of other sellers who operate on fact-based, logical, low-value information.
- You’ll advance sales faster. Your buyer’s commitment to you, trust in you, appreciation for you, and ability to remember you as someone who cared will lead to more sales being made more quickly.
To become more memorable, think less about selling and more about connecting with buyers in meaningful ways. Don’t plan out elaborate added-value giveaways or try to win clients over with discounts and product features. Instead, make it all about the buyer. Note: that’s not all about the buyer’s use of your product. It’s not all about the buyer’s company or problems. It’s simply all about the buyer… the individual you’re working with, the person who is hoping that you’ll create something relevant, personalized, and special just for them.