According to Charles Darwins’ Origin of Species, “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself”.
This probably is one of the best bits of advice to give to a salesperson too, when they are dealing with business in today’s environment.
Well, nothing is as consistent in business as change. It underrides every fundamental in every company today. If they don’t keep up with change, then they simply get left behind. So, how can Darwin’s quote help us to achieve more?
The fact is that every business you deal with every day is going through change. Some are experiencing change that is being thrust upon them; some are coping ok with the changes they face every day; and some are driving change successfully so that they succeed where others fail.
A key component required here is the ability to see the repercussions of change on your customers’ businesses as quickly as they do, if not quicker. If you have that ability, you give clients reason to listen to your recommendations and suggestions for improvement.
Your competition will try and sell the products and services they have. That’s all well and good if they are just in transaction mode. Those products may work well enough for their clients to try them, buy them and use them.
However, for companies to thrive in today’s world, there has to be a certain unique element that sets them apart from the competitors who simply sell products. And one of the best ways to keep ahead of your competition is to highlight the effect of change on your customers’ businesses. That way, you are building a good reputation based on advice and quality recommendations.
Identify for your customer how the changing market is affecting their business. Help them adapt to those changes by using your products and services. Become the company of choice by utilising the abilities of your products to keep your customer ahead of the game.
Change really is the only constant. Helping your prospects adapt to those changes ahead of their competition will make you a valuable asset to them and will help you build a reputation for driving performance forward. This will take the emphasis off price and develop a sense of reliance on your company, because you prove yourself to be better than the competition in the long run.
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We often get asked to help salespeople craft their cold-calling script so that the recipient drools at the very thought of meeting with the salesperson and has sleepless nights waiting for the presentation that will change their lives for the better.
This utopian situation doesn’t occur very often/quite often/seldom/hardly ever/once in a blue moon/never in world history (delete as applicable)
What’s happening here, then? Why would many salespeople find it hard to get in touch with a company to arrange an appointment to show them products that will improve their lives or businesses?
We know the reasons. Most sales calls are desperately poor in their production and execution. They rarely, if ever, have the prospect feeling that they should spare their valuable time being sold to.
It requires a proposition that builds value in the prospect’s eyes in actually allowing you to take some of their valuable time. Known as your ’value-proposition’ , it offers the chance for you to show how others have gained results from your products or services.
In simple terms, a “value proposition” is the sum of the total benefits that customers receive when they purchase a specific product or service from your organisation. Your product or service value proposition is a powerful, compelling statement designed to capture the mind and the heart of your customers by demonstrating a relevant advantage in buying from you.
Getting the value proposition right for what your business sells is so important, because it provides the basis for your business relationship with your customers; and answers the question foremost in every potential customer’s mind: ‘Why should I buy from you?’
Most salespeople, however, use the initial contact as a chance to practice their product knowledge by outlining what they sell and what they do. Quite frankly, at this stage the prospect isn’t interested.
What is it at this stage that the customer/prospect wants to hear from you?
Put simply, it’s a statement that demonstrates that you understand their situation – that you recognise the problem they wish to solve, or the outcome they wish to achieve -followed by a specific offer or explanations as to how you are going to help them address their situation.
Ideally, the value proposition will not only explain how owning your product or using your service will allow the customer to achieve a desired outcome; it will also explain how it is that your business is uniquely positioned to create that outcome.
So it should focus on the results your prospect will achieve, rather than the features or benefits of the product itself.
So, DO NOT explain the product or services you sell, or outline their features.
INSTEAD, detail the benefits to the customer of owning your products or retaining your services.
Weak statements would include:
“We’re the best in class”
“We improve morale and motivation”
“Ours lasts longer than the competition’s offering”
Yeah, yeah, yada, yada, yada.
How can I say this politely?
They’re Not Interested!
Today, you need to have a strong value proposition to break through the noise and pressure they are feeling from all sides. You need to speak to the critical issues they are facing, be they production, staff turnover, cash-flow, technical issues, profitability, stemming losses, health and safety, or others.
How about a stronger value proposition?
“We’ve helped our last 15 clients increase their turnover by an average of 9% in two years, and their profitability by over 12%. All without having to cut costs or make redundancies”
That helps prospects see the real value that you can offer and helps them make the decision to see you as soon as possible, just to see if their business could benefit in the same way. By talking about results rather than products (which are what customers really buy, isn’t it?), you create reasons for them to accept your proposition of a meeting or presentation.
So, don’t talk about what you do or how you do it; talk about the results of what you do and how the prospect will reap those rewards with you.
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One of our clients had a particular dilemma, described here by one of the sales team:
“Our clients think our products are just a commodity, and so mainly focus on the price against our competition. We know that our products are different, have differential qualities and will be better for our prospects than our competition’s will. What can we do about this?”
Interesting question. Remember, the perception of your products and services are in the eyes of the customer. If they think you’re cheap, then you’re cheap. If they think you’re lousy, then you’re lousy. No amount of marketing or brochure blurb will influence that if it’s ingrained.
What should you do? Here’s a checklist to ensure your customers see your products as different in many ways.
1) Be absolutely honest and truthful about your products’ appeal to the marketplace. Are they really different, to everyone you meet? Or do they just offer value to specific customers with specific needs? You could have a niche product. But who does it appeal to?
If you really think your products are special, then…
2) Do you have a great story about your offerings that make the value and benefits come alive? If so, how do you prove it to the customer? Have you got testimonials and references of the results others have got? Specify what your product will do for this actual customer, based on what other similar companies have experienced.
3) Have you created enough opportunities with the decision-makers to prove how valuable your offer would be to their business? Remember, the decision-makers may not be the end-users, and they might not be able to perceive the real differences between yours and the competitive offerings.
4) Have you become so focused on price differentials that the real value of your products has been clouded over? You must be capable of really detailing the story of what your products will do, for THIS specific customer.
5) Think seriously about the results you’re promising from your products. Are they of real benefit to the customer? For instance, one photocopying supplier we worked with tried to sell the value of their machines by saying it saved three seconds of time in printing 100 copies over the prospect’s current machine. The prospect couldn’t see the real value in that. It simply didn’t justify the changes they would have had to go through in order to get our client on their supplier list. So, identify what is of real value to the prospect and help them see what it would do for them in terms that are valuable to them.
By being aware that customers will focus on price if there’s nothing else to differentiate you, you are able to determine what could be important enough to this specific customer to warrant you referring to them.
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You know well how customer don’t buy on price alone. The risk that is taken when they buy the cheapest option is sometimes too great and so other components are taken into account when decisions are made.
We often say that we should sell the concept of value, as it appears in the eyes of the prospect. But how can you generate that value? How do you know what would be valuable to a client? We have to analyse what we can do to increase that value early on in our planning.
Your discussions concerning how you build that value in the eyes of the prospect can boil down effectively to six points, derived from answering these questions. These questions clarify the value your business provides:
Remember, build up your value message, because if you don’t, you may well be selling what is viewed as a commodity, and that’s when customers see price as more important than value, and you’ll find yourself up against those who are cheapest.
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Branding is one of the key components of marketing your products and services, and branding has become a multi-million pound industry, with so many companies using their brands to leverage their marketing positions.
Branding, though, can be lost in the competitive elements that make up the world of products and services. No more is this so in the components that make up personal branding.
Personal branding is how you are perceived as an individual. If your clients think of your product and immediately think of you associated with it, your personal brand is attached to the product.
But what if you were to build your product brand away from your product or service? What if your prospects were to think of you as standing out way above the level of the product or service you sell? What would be the implications for your selling future?
What I’m referring to here is the element of thought-leadership within your own business model. I follow various leaders on LinkedIn, as their ideas inspire me to become the person I know I’m capable of being. But what if people started to follow you? Is it possible for you to become a thought-leaders for your industry or product? What if people sought out your views on new products or directions on what to choose or where to buy?
Becoming a thought-leader doesn’t have to be that time consuming. And it opens up lots of opportunities for you to show your personal brand off to many more prospects.
So, how can you become the kind of person others will want to follow and know about? Here are some ideas to kick you off:
1) Identify yourself with one thing. You can’t be too generic here. Just saying ‘sales’ or ‘product x’ won’t be specific enough. You need to become an expert in a particular field. Take one area that you know people are interested in and start researching ideas connected with that area. Yes, it takes focus and yes, it takes time. It will be time well spent if you become the person that others choose to listen to.
2) Expand your portfolio of opportunities. In sales, we tend to concentrate on our own products and services, while the competition and others are developing and evolving. You need to look at other opportunities within the field and offer people ideas and techniques on how they can improve their businesses and their lives. By showing others where they can improve, you set yourself as someone of value, and people will always seek you out because of that.
3) Go where the people are. When you have decided what you are going to focus and concentrate on, you need to go where people are looking. This means placing your blogs in areas where people go. You need to share ideas in LinkedIn groups, on your Facebook business pages and on Google Plus. People are evolving exponentially in the way they seek out information. Your message needs to be in places where people visit, or you will be lost in the morass of other minutia. Building your personal brand awareness through articles, thought-starters, questions, debates and future-focus are key ways to stimulate interest and drive people to your ideas.
So, becoming a thought-leader in your industry may take time and effort, but the rewards will be more interest in you, more referrals from others, more contacts from people you haven’t heard of, and more awareness of your ideas on how businesses can improve their business results. It offers you plenty of chances to show your value to individuals and companies. And it increases your pipeline as people approach you for advice and guidance.
Sure beats having to prospect all the time!
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Increase the value, or the perceived value of what you sell, and you will make more sales! You have to have ways to raise the value of your product or service. By that, I mean, when the buyer feels that the return, is greater than the investment, you will close more sales.
The sale often takes place when the prospect feels that the value of the product is significantly greater than the value of the money. Once the benefits outweigh the costs, you are in position to do business.
Of course, the process of building perceived value differs depending on what you sell, in particularly, if you sell a tangible product or an intangible service. Below, find three powerful tips for both sides of the sales spectrum.
How to Raise the Value of a Tangible Product
#1. Handle the item as if it is made of glass: The way you handle the product you sell can greatly increase or decrease its value. Handle the item as if it were made of glass and worth £1,000,000. Even if you are selling strong, durable machinery or tools, handle them as if they were Faberge Eggs, and watch the perceived value soar.
#2. Do not touch it—caress it: Automobiles, furniture, appliances, clothing or even machinery, when in contact with your product, be gentle and soothing. Contrary to popular belief, do not ever kick the tires! Gently caress the item, sooth it.
#3. Savor with your eyes: When you first saw this great product you sell, your eyes lit up like a fire. However, after selling it for months or years, you don’t see it the same way today. The prospect sees and feels how you react when you gaze upon your product, and they react likewise. Selling essentially is a transference of FEELING, and if you do not feel genuinely excited when you see your product, neither will the prospective buyer. Savor the item with your eyes and the prospect will do the same.
How to Raise the Value of an Intangible Service
#1. Promote the value of YOU: The more of an important person you are, the more valuable your service is. Promote yourself; articles you wrote, awards for service, etc. Also, dress to impress. Look like you have millions in the bank and you do not have to work.
#2. Explain the value of people behind the scenes: Let the prospect know that your firm invests in only the best. For instance, assume there are two software companies whom both sell a comparable accounting application. One company employs entry-level, unproven, programmers still in college, while the other hires only high-level, seasoned and certified professionals. The higher worth and investment for the professional programmers, will increase the intrinsic value of the software.
#3. Uncover the behind the scenes processes: Explain how your company has enhanced processes and procedures. Does your company spend more money on research and development, legal areas or security? Perhaps the filtering process and assessment tests you use to hire accountants are more sophisticated than the industry norm. Such information will increase the value of your service.
Raise the value and raise your closing averages!
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You’ve spent years perfecting your craft and learning everything there is to know about what you sell and the competition. However, you have to be careful not to allow that knowledge to flow too swiftly.
The Instant Response
Of course, some products and services require light-speed responses, but selling most products and services today, requires more of a consultative approach. The problem that often befalls experienced sales professionals is that they answer questions too quickly and solve problems too easily.
From extensive experience and knowledge, the sales person knows within minutes exactly what the prospect’s problems are and the precise combination of products and services to offer. However, when that determination appears to come too fast and without much effort, it diminishes the value.
Let me try to explain with the following analogy.
Not feeling well, you go to your doctor’s office. From the symptoms you wrote down on the appointment sheet, the doctor already knows exactly what the problem is. She has seen 20 other patients in the last few weeks with identical symptoms and identified the local virus that’s going around town. Before even seeing you, the doctor is near certain of the problem and the solution.
The Good Doctor
However, a good doctor will still take some time to ask questions and perform some type of an examination.
“So how long have you been feeling this way?” “Have you changed your diet?” “How is your appetite?” etc. The doctor begins to utter those famous phrases that show she is deep in thought in consideration of your case… “Uhm-um.” and “I see…”
Finally, after the, “Open your mouth and say ahh…” the doctor informs you of the virus, prescribes the medication and sets a follow up appointment.
Imagine however, the doctor who walks in and without even speaking to you, or checking you out just says, “You have a virus, take two of these pills, drink plenty of fluids and call me next week.” And then walks out!
The doctor builds the value of her services by properly recognising the value and severity of the problem.
The Consultative Response
When you solve issues and answer questions too quickly, you can unwittingly diminish the significance of the problem.
When you diminish the significance of the problem, you simultaneously lower the value of the solution TO the problem. Does that make sense?
Slow down. Don’t be so quick to blurt out answers, and that includes answering objections. Just because you can solve some problems or issues in a matter of seconds, does not always mean you should.
The more severe the problem is, the more valuable the solution will be.
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You know the age-old Golden Rule—“Do not reveal the price until the end.” Even if you are new to sales, management has told you that you have to wait until the closing stages before you tell the prospect the price.
However, does such a rule or concept still have merit, especially in dealing with today’s modern and educated buyer? Since today’s prospect has instant access to a ton of information about what you sell before you even show up, and they are so short on time; does it still make sense to hold out on the price, even if the prospect is demanding to know?
In a word…YES!! Below are three critical reasons why you should still never reveal the price until you have built significant value.
#1. Price is Irrelevant Until You Have Established the Value
For your product or service to have any value to the prospect, the prospect must have a NEED for that product or service. Before you can establish a need, there must be a solution. Before there can be a solution, you must unearth a problem. The significance of the problem for which the product is a solution, determines its value. Until there is such a value, the price is meaningless. The following analogy, though absurdly fictitious, will help demonstrate the point.
If I came to sell you a gigantic inflatable chair and I told you that the price for this huge, pink blow-up chair is £600, would you buy it? Would you consider it for a discounted price of only £350? You would have to think that such a child’s toy is not worth more than £10.
However, what if I informed you that the local reservoir dam just collapsed, the equivalent of a small tsunami is on the way, and in a few minutes, the entire town is going to be 20 feet under water. Now if I asked £10,000 for that same chair, you would consider it a bargain.
The price is irrelevant until you have established value.
#2. The Prospect’s Ability to Listen Disappears After They Hear the Price
The moment you reveal the price, the prospect makes a buying decision. On hearing the price, the prospect feels they have all of the information they need, and makes a mental decision (usually negative), and that’s it. The prospect now has a closed-mind, and deems any additional information unnecessary. It becomes near impossible to build value after you have revealed the price.
#3. Price Before Value Creates a False “Price vs. Value” Perception
The sale takes place when, to the prospect, the value exceeds the price. This is not about money. It is about perception and expectations in the prospect’s mind that determine how they feel about the offer. It is about emotion. When you quote a price before establishing value, it creates the perception of a price that far outweighs the value. No matter how you try to build value after revealing the price, you cannot change that feeling, because you cannot, (significantly or justifiably), change the price.
Conversely, if you build the value before price, in the prospect’s mind that price will be greater than the value. If you have done a reasonable job building value, then when you finally reveal the price, it should be but a fraction of the established value. Therefore, the prospect perceives the price to be far less than excepted and thus a proper price vs. value perception results.
And how exactly should you respond to the prospect who asks you for the price upfront?
“James, there are a lot of options and variables that we need to take into consideration before I can give you an accurate figure. Is it ok if I ask you a couple of questions to get some further information so I know which one of our products/service would be the right one for you?”
A lot has changed when it comes to dealing with today’s modern buyer. However, holding on to that price until after you have built the value, is one concept that must stay the same.
Bestselling Author, Sales Authority & Speaker On Modern Day Selling Methods
Many times, your buyer will take a look at your up-front price and reject it. This is because they don’t see how the goods or services you offer will solve their problems at the price stated. In other words, value has not been built up in the customer’s mind.
Value isn’t waht you think it is. Value is alwyas what the buyer thinks it is. If you think it’s goos and the buyer thinks it’s not, it’s not!
So here you need to really educate your buyer. You need to highlight the focal point of the conversation. Either you will focus on the price of your services or products, or on the value of your solution, that is, what is it worth to the buyer. Here are some tips on how to help the buyer perceive that value:
1) Remind him of the value of past services: If you’ve been partners with the company for some time, bring up the value that you have built up over that time with him. Remind him of what they’ve received from you in the past.Is the peace of maind and security you have provided worth something? If so, let him know how much that must be worth.
2) Check if price is the real issue: You could ask something like: “Mr Buyer, if you were to make a decision today on all the criteria except price, who would you go with and why?” The reasons the buyer comes up with will include a number of things other than price, and you can ensure that you build value on those other things. You can then convince the buyer that all those valuable things outweigh a small price differential between you and the competition.
3) Shift the focus off price: You don’t make apologies for high quality and great service. Explain how your services adds value to the offering you are making and explain how your back-up or other unique offerings benefit the buyer’s business.
4) Use testimonials to convince the buyer that price isn’t the be-all-and-end-all: It’s ok you saying that your quality and service makes up for the higher price, but you would say that, wouldn’t you? Use what other customers have said to reinforce your message that value is built in to the long-term service of your realtionship with them.
5) Build performance criteria into your contract: Here at MTD, we ran a Sales Development Programme with a company in the construction industry. We held back part of our fees until the end of the programme. If we delivered to the spec we had promised and the customer profited from that, we shared in those profits. If we didn’t deliver and their profitability wasn’t what we expected, we didn’t get those performance fees. Needless to say, we shared a good percentage of the extra profits the company made!
You can build some kind of performance contract into your relationship with the buyer. You could reduce the risk to your buyer by introducing a clause for failure to perform. This is known as a malus, and it occurs when the contractor must repay or forfeit some of their fees for failing to perform. If you are that confident you can deliver for the buyer, you might consider something like that in your contract to reduce the risks for them, and hence increase the value.
6) Confirm the basis for the value you are offering: If the buyer is still considering using your competitor, you can identify the best value offerings you have and reiterate them. Then you could say: “Mr Buyer, let’s go over our proposition together and I’ll highlight the benefits you will get by going with us. Then, let’s compare what the competitor is offering and we can see which of us would benefit your long-term business the most”.
It’s true that some buyers will fail to see the value of your products and services.Their objections appear as either value-based objections or equity problems. In the first case, the buyer falils to see the value of what you are offering. In the second case, they cannot see the difference between you and the competition. You need to reiterate your value and uniqueness.
Ask yourself, what are your definable and value-building differentials? Where is the value in your proposaition?” The ansers to these questions will build confidence in your customer and encourage them to identify, with you, the full value of your offerings.
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Delivering value is the catalyst for any buyer to make a decision. But what many salespeople forget is that the customer’s view of value changes as they move through the buying cycle.
The stages buyers go through start with recognising there is a need. Then they make evaluations as to who they should buy from, followed by the decision phase and finally taking the action necessary to buy the product or service. However, it’s the level of value that the buyer percieves at each level that changes. Let’s see what makes the perception of value different at each phase:
1) Perception changes over time. How the buyer sees value when they are looking for a solution is different to when they are ready to make a decision.
2) Recognising their needs. Should the buyer do something or just let things stay as they are?
3) Identifying the options available. At this stage the buyer is sizing up the various companies who could help him solve his problems. Value at this stage is determined by possibilities of change.
4) Decision time. This is when the prospect resolves to make the necessary changes to achieve their goals. Their assessment of value is different again.
5) Putting the choice into action. This is when the final choice can be cemented and the prospect will identify whether the value of the decision can be backed up by facts.
So, determine what level the prospect is working at when you start talking value; that will help you present the value proposition in a way they are viewing it too.
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