Since customer focus is really value focus, selling processes and methodologies must make your anyone in a customer-facing role better at discovering value gaps. The reason: customer perceived value is the life-force driving all commerce. It’s the “invisible power” inside of Adam Smith’s unseen hand. A sale only occurs when a customer perceives value in excess of price. Prospects only agree to take meetings that are worth the time. Click-throughs are positive responses to a value proposition. When a leader wants their company to be customer-centric, the kernel inside that drive is to be focused on customer value.
Sales is a process of discovering and leveraging value to influence a decision. Dissatisfaction with status quo, aspirations for a better future state, then connecting value to a proposed change.
First layer: Value Discovery
The foundation of customer value focus is conversation skills among any person touching a customer throughout the arc of the customer journey. The ability to uncover value should be a responsibility at every customer touch-point. This doesn’t have to mean sales training for the people in accounts receivable, but it does mean a purposeful development of certain abilities. For groups who interact regularly and deeply with customers, there are several sales methodologies for helping sellers facilitate needs –satisfaction discussions. I happen to love those of the Miller Heiman Group.
Surprisingly, few methodologies guide customer conversations to the critical point where a customer internalizes and measures value. Establishing a value-discovery methodology to all customer-facing roles is a huge competitive advantage for any company pursuing a customer intimacy value discipline……. A fundamental sales skill is helping a customer build a mental value picture.
Second level: Business Acumen
Understanding the customer’s world empowers us to sell conventional value propositions. Understanding their world exceptionally well allows us to connect our solution into a more detailed, more compelling value picture. For this reason, many sales leaders have realized that building business acumen for sellers and customer –facing roles is a big performance booster. Being a trusted advisor requires that a seller knows their customer’s business well enough to give valued insights…and you can’t know your customer’s business unless you know business.
Business acumen gives us the ability to look at a prospective customer’s business insightfully. Demonstrating a deep understanding of the prospective prospect’s business builds the credibility foundation needed to trust a seller’s perspective. Without that credibility, you risk being just another annoying know-it-all spewing a misdirected “credibility deck” in a prospect’s direction. Value messaging turns into old-fashioned “telling” if the perspective is not anchored in customer insight.
Business acumen is needed to discover value that is hidden to average sellers. It supports a more detailed “map” of value landing points: personas and roles within the target company where the seller’s differentiation generates value. A tool called “value networks” builds this high-level selling practice into a repeatable system for entire sales teams.
Elite level: Achieving higher Win-Win Prices.
Gaining customer insight allows us to not only build a deeply engaging case for change., but to have the customer engage that perception of value in relation to price.
Using great customer conversation skills and methodologies with customers to define and monetize the value they perceive accomplishes two things:
- It solidifies a higher win-win price (either minimized discounting on standard products/services or more productive price-setting on custom ones)
- Reinforced perception of value, stronger preference. Customers pay higher prices for value received, but only pay higher prices they can’t justify in the short term. Raising prices isn’t the trick; getting them to internalize the price justification is. Once a customer has built their own value case for your pricing, that case tends to stick. When you do it right, customers build a preference for your product/service into their justification for your price
Putting it together
Building teams of elite sellers is a passion. Building businesses driven by discovering and delivering superior customer value is an even bigger calling. And it all starts with a great conversation; the ability to uncover and build value (because the only kind of value in the world is customer-perceived).
My upcoming book will expand on these subjects. If you don’t want to wait for publication date, feel free to contact me; I’d love to learn how I can provide some value and perspective.
To Your Success!