Sales is not a zero sum game. While many (especially negotiation) “experts” seem to operate under the assumption that when the customer gains, the seller loses, this is absolutely not the case for professional sellers. The best sellers explore customer value in ways that give customers more without resorting to concessions.
I have led in some pretty “commoditized” industries: wire and cable, telecommunications, banking (selling money – isn’t that supposed to be the perfect commodity?). I can tell you from personal experience that driving maximum customer value drives better results for sellers of even the most commoditized product or service.
Research backs up my anecdotal experience: providing maximum value for customers drives results. RAIN group found that:
- “Value driving sales organizations (VDSOs)” (definition available upon request, but summarized below) win at a rate of 54%, vs only 45% for everyone else.
- “VDSOs” grow almost 25% faster than others.
- “VDSOs ” have almost one-third lower undesired employee turnover. They are better at keeping their most effective sellers.
Value 101: You don’t have any until…
First, let’s define value. Specifically, let’s define where value resides: in the customer’s mind. If they don’t understand or acknowledge some benefit, it is valueless. Value is a customer perception thing. In order to measure customer value, sellers need to understand that perception as well as possible. This requires some profound seller skills. Luckily, these are teachable, measurable, coachable skills.
Here’s more good news. Since value is all in the customer’s mind, you can often increase value without waiting for your R&D group to enhance your product. Value discipline aligns sales and product groups. Leapfrogging simple “voice of the customer” survey data with a more sophisticated “value perception of the customer” informs their new products/product enhancement processes.
One key takeaway: since value only exists in the customer’s mind, your customer-facing people are the critical link in understanding your value, and helping customers realize value. You need to equip all of them to have the right conversations, provide the right perspectives, and gain the right insights. You must also provide coaching and metrics to track and improve their performance.
What Do Value Disciplined Organizations do Differently?
There are a few proponents of Value Discipline out there, and they have very similar definitions. The common themes:
- Customer-centric orientation: organized around how customers like to buy, and building credibility with prospects to become a trusted investigator…and later, a trusted advisor.
- Flexible, adaptable selling process always seeking to align with customer buying processes, the players involved in a specific opportunity, and their roles, and the group dynamic in play.
- Relentless focus on customer value: understanding of the customer’s business and how seller’s offer can improve it, requirement that sellers understand and quantify value gaps completely before proposing a solution – or a price. Connecting any solution clearly to every possible value gap. Reaffirming value delivered post sale, and making sure that expectations are met.
As a proud Miller Heiman Group Sales Consultant, I can tell you that Miller Heiman Group skills and methodologies and enablement tools are a critical foundation for a company-side value discipline. I love working with clients to take the journey that final step to “Value Disciplined Organization”.
Corporate Value Discipline: Not Just for Selling Organizations.
When your customer-facing people live value discipline, you open doors to many other growth levers in your company:
- Product Managers focus on – and help everyone clearly understand and articulate – each product’s unique advantage. Your organization can validate this uniqueness with customers, and help sellers leverage them. They also gain a view to product enhancements and even new products to fill discovered value gaps.
- Marketing efforts can be informed by detailed value mapping exercises (contact me if you’d like to learn more), which map differentiators to the customer value they create across different customer departments and functions. Marketing communications and sales support programs are far more focused and effective. These maps can be at the core of building an account-based marketing function.
- Any technology or legal protection for uniqueness is informed by value discipline. My two patents are written first to capture customer value broadly (regardless of technical implementation), and then more narrowly to specific art. This kind of protection is far more strategically relevant than mere technical patents.
- Engineering groups can clearly define which of your company’s technologies yield differentiation, and should be protected/extended/invested in as “Core technologies/capabilities”, and which technologies should be considered “enabling”, those must keep pace with your industry, but which don’t create additional customer value.
“What’s the Value” of What You Just Read?
I’m a value hawk, and work heavily with some of my clients on price integrity (aka avoiding discounting), because every dollar you discount comes out of your profit line and goes to your customer’s. If you make a product (or provide a service) that grows your customer’s profits, shouldn’t you be paid fairly for that? I can promise you that most purchasing agents don’t think so…or don’t seem to, until you can replay some of the value conversations you’ve had with other people in their organization.
Please comment below, or contact me directly to discuss your version of value discipline in your company … and if your vision for it differs.
To your success!