want to cap off this series of posts by articulating the force that powers sales greatness: value focus. It enriches our entire model of sales performance — adding an entire third dimension. The “motive force” behind everything sales professionals do is value focus.

Importantly, this “third dimension” of sales management also forms the connection between selling process and customer relationship strength. More on that later.

Sales skills, process, methodology and playbooks are most powerful when they engage a customer’s mind in a buying process. Using a current buzzword, they align with “the buyer’s journey”.

Core principle #1: Value exists ONLY in the mind of the customer.

As a Product Manager and product marketer, I used to turn out some truly world-changing selling collateral, selling decks, etc. Accordingly, my work brilliantly showcased eye-opening, economically compelling value propositions. Unfortunately, that’s all they ever were: propositions; educated guesses pointing sales people and customers to POTENTIAL value. If my brilliance didn’t resonate with a customer, there was no value…for them…at least, right then. It’s that simple. Once, a customer responded to a white paper with “yeah, I suppose that’s kind of interesting, but a few major customers have threatened to leave, and I think this other aspect of your product will save my bacon”. Do you think I went into objection-handling mode on the rejected value proposition? Even though I was a brilliant marketing genius? Or do you think I followed the customer’s lead to where his value was?

A salesperson must verify and validate what value exists between their customer’s ears.  Otherwise, they are flying blind.  Then, even the most exacting execution of your playbooks and methodologies becomes almost a crapshoot.

Giving the sales management stack real depth: Value Focus.

Recall the sales stack from earlier posts. There, I described seller acumen in a base layer, and successive layers of management capabilities building upward.   In this post, the sales stack gains a third dimension: focus on customer value.   Value focus adds a critical dimension to each layer in the stack.

Sales Management Hierarchy 3D

Now, let’s walk through how value focus enriches every aspect of how sellers sell, and how sales leaders coach and manage. 

Core Principle #2: Customers must gain value during every part of their buying process

Customers consider purchasing only as long as the pain of the status quo exceeds the pain of the buying process. The human brain seeks efficient ways to get on with things. Without a compelling reason to take the next step in evaluating a change (and that’s what purchasing something new is), they disengage. Get them to see value or bust.

Lead generation efforts only earn responses or click-throughs when people see value in clicking a mouse or executing a response. Offer them value in exchange for their contact info, or they’ll abandon instead of possibly dealing with your future spam.

While prospecting, promise value and a positive cost/benefit ratio in the opening seconds of any attempt to secure an initial appointment. Move the prospect’s estimated cost/benefit in your favor by leveraging great pre-call research and ability to solve a problem you know the customer has. Remember, the “value hurdle” you must clear at this stage is merely “worth the time the sales person is asking for”. The same goes for subsequent meetings: promise the same cost/benefit, or reduce your chances of future time investments.

Discovery should mean discovering value. Instead of simply getting a customer to describe value drivers, implications, and need payoffs, master sellers learn full value. Top performers engage the customer all the way through measuring full value in the customer’s own terms.

Core Principle #3: In the absence of sufficient value, status quo always wins

Even buyers often find complex buying decisions difficult and frustrating. The motivating force that keeps customers from throwing up their hands and living with the status quo is promised value. Research shows that buyers don’t completely build their own mental assessments of value — they need somebody like a professional salesperson to guide them through a process of internalizing value. Clearly visualized value motivates them to stay engaged. Remember, group decisions are hard, and groups look for excuses to drop hard decisions and carry on with the status quo unless the promised value exceeds the hassle of the decision making process.

When a customer quantifies the value your offer brings to the table, price negotiations become much more productive .  It’s critical that your sales people develop full customer value throughout the sales process.

Core Principle #4: Customer-perceived value is the foundation of relationship level

The term “customer-perceived value” is purposely redundant, but it’s that important.

In their discussion of the Sales/Relationship Performance Matrix (SRP Matrix), CSO Insights states that level of sales process is controllable by the selling organization. By contrast, customers heavily determine (at least upwardly limit) relationship level. Customers seek closer (higher level on the SRP Matrix) relationships with suppliers who add the most value to their operations and/or strategic initiatives. Look especially at the right two columns below:

5 relationship levels table -- SRP

Think about it: when sellers master unearthing, then creating value in their customers’ business, they exert influence on customer relationship level. Of course, customers still set upward limits (procurement policies are a great example).

Core Principle #5: Knowing customer value wrings uncertainty from funnel management and forecasts.

As we’ve discussed, funnel reviews are the centerpiece of a robust management cadence. The point of funnel reviews is to judge the health of each seller’s overall business, early warnings of stuck deals getting stuck and more. When leaders coach sellers to validate customer – perceived value, they gain greater insight into uncertainty and funnel quality. Value discipline really helps managers comb the garbage deals out of your funnel.

Core Principle #6: Customer value discipline reaches throughout your company,

As senior sales leaders set direction for their organizations, value focus helps in many ways.

  • Accurate forecasts are informed by quality funnels.  Knowing customer value means you know how your customer expects to benefit, which yields much more accurate predictions of success.
  • Go-to-market strategies align with how customers want to buy.
  • Customer value clarifies territory definition and role alignment decisions.
  • Value-centric metrics inform many decisions and strategies that require the voice of the customer: new products, operations, customer service, etc.
  • Ideal Customer Profiles and opportunity scoring analytics are more customer-centric

Putting it all Together

Value discipline enriches your entire sales system, and coaching to value is critical to operationalizing the focus on customer-perceived value.

The powerful thing about value focus is that it pervades not only how you sell, but it extends the voice of the customer throughout. The simplicity of selling and coaching to value through the sales yields powerful results up and down the sales management stack.

I’d love to hear your comments below. As always, feel free to reach out if you have more involved questions, or would like an outside set of eyes on your situation.

To your success!

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