You are the most important value offering that you sell

What are the various “value offerings” that you sell or that your prospects buy? If we break it down into broad categories, inevitably it is three high-level value offerings:

  1. Your product that gets the prospect to their goals.
  2. Your company that produces and supports the product.
  3. You.

If you think about all of the sales calls you have made in your career, the questions all fall into these three big value offerings. The prospect wants to know all about the speeds and feeds of your product. They want to know all about the pricing model of the product. They want to know all about the support options and warranty of the product. They want to know how long your company has been producing the product and what the roadmap is for your company. They may even want to meet some executives of your company to be comfortable about the management of the company.

During all of these sales conversations, they are also learning about the value offering that you bring to them. They are learning about you as a person. Are you reliable? Are you knowledgeable? Does the prospect trust the words that come out of your mouth? In short, they are trying to figure out if they should buy from you or, in essence, can they buy you.

Yes, you are for sale if you are in sales. You are a part of the value offering that the prospect considers in the evaluation. At a minimum, do you offer enhance value to the prospect over just buying the product over the Internet?

Here is the rub, you are the most important value offering. Not the product and not your company. They are secondary to the importance of you as a value offering.

Let’s be perfectly blunt, is your product that much better or worse than the competition? When you answer questions about your product, aren’t 90-99% of your responses positively answered regarding the customer’s concern? How many times do you answer a question, “No, we don’t have that feature.” Obviously, you will give that answer at times, but in those cases, you probably are not a good fit for the customer and will lose the deal immediately. If your product doesn’t have that required feature, then you are not talking to a qualified prospect for that product.

Isn’t your competitor’s product in a similar situation? Don’t most of their features match up fairly well to your own product’s features? I am sure that you do a little better at feature A or B. Although your competitor probably does a little better at C. When you add it all up, it is probably pretty close to a dead even tie. Worse yet, your prospect probably can achieve their goals perfectly well without buying the best product on the market (yours) because the second best or third best product will accomplish the goals. They don’t need the best; they simply need the product and company to be good enough to accomplish their goals.

Similarly, how many times do you have to explain to your prospect that your company isn’t very good at supporting the product? Do you ever really lose a deal based on company longevity or commitment to the market? Of course not and neither do your competitors.

As a Sales Trapper, I continuously advise salespeople that features that do not differentiate do not matter. Does the car salesperson spend time explaining the value offering of the accelerator on the floor? Of course not, all modern cars have them. Does the TV salesperson explain that the remote will change the channel and volume? Of course not, all TVs have remotes with a value offering that do that. In both cases, there was a time when those were unique and differentiating features but not in today’s competitive market. The TV and automobile manufacturers have added those features as standard, and the features no longer differentiate the products. Since none of these features add a differential value offering, there is no reason to “sell” these features to the prospect. A salesperson that spends a lot of time talking about the value offering of these benefits is simply wasting valuable time.

So why do you spend so much time talking about your company and your product? Obviously, you need to do the minimum amount to make sure you check off all of the check boxes, but that is all you are doing. All you are doing is showing that your company and your product are good enough to match the competition. As soon as you achieve that parity, you need to sell the one benefit that only you can provide.

You need to sell you. You need to prove to the prospect that you offer more value than your competitor. You demonstrate this value offering by the information that you share with the prospect. You demonstrate this value offering by the benefit that you provide understanding your prospect’s business. By helping your prospect improve his or her personal skills and achieve personal goals, you make yourself irreplaceable.

If your product can help the prospect achieve a goal, then it is likely that your competitor’s product can do the same. If your company can support the product and the customer, then your competitor can do the same. You, personally, are the only truly differentiated benefit to the prospect, and you need to make sure your prospect understands this benefit (and the associated value offering).

You know that you have truly won the deal if the prospect says they would buy either your product or your competitor’s product from you. You were the most valuable part of the sale. Have you ever heard those words from a new customer?

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why #TheDress matters (OR Why perception equals reality in sales)

As I write this article, #TheDress has been trending on Twitter and other social media outlets for days and has gone viral. I am not going to get into a scientific discussion here on cones and rods in your eye. However, it is important to learn from this rage, especially if you earn a living in sales.

The current viral controversy is that some people observe the dress to be black and blue stripes while others see the dress to be gold and white stripes. There are scientific reasons for this confusion but the most important consideration is that everyone thinks they are correct. Think about this, if this subject had not hit Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so hard, everyone would believe that their perception of the colors of the dress was 100% of reality. If you saw a picture of #TheDress, wouldn’t you automatically assume that the color combination you perceive is reality?

Put in another way, how many images of clothes, cars, homes or stuffed animals have you questioned your perception of the color? If this is the first time that you questioned your perception, doesn’t it seem likely that this combination of colors and lighting has affected the rods and cones in your eye before?

Perception equals reality is something that salespeople have to contend with every day. It can be in your favor, and it can hurt you. Let’s give some simple examples:

  • Your product is expensive versus your product is affordable.
  • Your company gives great support versus your company gives adequate support.
  • Management needs information about the productivity of the sales force versus management is asking for so many reports the sales force doesn’t have time to sell.
  • Salespeople are essential in today’s market versus the Internet makes salespeople irrelevant.

I will be addressing that last point in a future article, but I think that almost all of us can agree that the earlier three were all a matter of perspective. The perspective of a person influences their version of reality.

Your marketing department advises you of certain facts about your product or products. You would assume that most of those facts are not interpreted as perception. We typically consider them to be speeds and feeds types of facts. Examples could be weight, torque, amount of RAM, number of CPUs, and even color. Interestingly, as we learned from #TheDress, color is not exactly a perfectly factual feature since it does require the viewer to perceive the combination of colors in a certain way.

Other facts typically are about the products ability to offer a benefit to the end customer. These are much more open to perception. You need to explain these features to the prospect, and the prospect may not take your word for the benefit. These features only have perceived benefits to certain prospects and likely have few benefits to others.

It is the job of the salesperson to understand the perception of the buyer, since the buyer’s perception is 100% of reality. A buyer that sees no value in your feature literally thinks that feature is worthless. If you continue to try to change the perception of that buyer on the value of a single feature, you are likely wasting your time. Instead, it is your job as a professional salesperson to understand the perception of the buyer and present features to that buyer that have value to that buyer.

Just like some people perceive that #TheDress is gold and white while others perceive it to be black and blue, perception is reality. It is your job as a professional salesperson to understand that perception and alter your conversation with the prospect to influence their version of reality.

 

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The Dress (viral phenomenon)” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.