For our February Webinar, Mike Wilkinson shared secrets to understanding and communicating your value throughout the sales process, and winning deals when you have the best solution. To conclude the webinar, he answered some questions from the audience. Here are his live answers:
When do you introduce price into the discussion?
Well that’s an interesting one. I don’t really think we want to be talking too much about price until we’ve really understood the needs and the issues and the challenges and that we’ve gained a commitment from the customer to do something and more importantly perhaps have the opportunity to build our value. I have to grade that is the perfect scenario.
But the real world is often quite different to that. Very often, they are just flying kites so that they can get some sort of idea on what the prices are. You could ask them what they budgeted, if they have a budget for it, if they have got a budget, what’s in the budget, how much is it? Or if you’re really pushed, you might have to give them a very broad price range, in terms just to give them some sort of idea to what they may be in for. But as much as possible, until you build your value and make an understand the value of what you do, I would be cautious about introducing price too early, particularly if you think this is going to be a very price sensitive sort of a customer.
Looking at the three components of a weak Value Proposition, how do you get a team to improve on each?
Undertake value discovery better is a simple answer to the first bit. Resonating is about demonstrating to the customer that you can address the issues and challenges that the customer has shared with you. If you’ve not asked great questions, if you’ve not done great value discovery, then you’re not going to have the depth of understanding that you need. So certainly from a resonating point of view, you need to understand the customer better. I think when it comes to differentiation, you really do need to think outside of just the product. I talked to loads of clients who obsess about the product and obsess about the fact that it’s not different enough. Customers aren’t just buying the product. Customers are buying the entire experience of doing business with you.
So do look outside of the product and if one buyer said 12% of his meetings have got any value, that’s an instant way of adding some serious differentiation to what you do. If you make sure that the meetings that you have with your customers are absolutely jam packed full of value for the customer, then that’s a great way of differentiating. And then finally when it comes to substantiation, I think if ever there was a great argument for making sure that you have good case studies, then this is it. And as Brian said in his presentation, those little quotes at the bottom of the slides that he was going through when we were looking at maintenance costs and the like, that that part of it, they are part of substantiating the fact that you can do the things that you say that you can do.
How do sales teams figure out the difference between a price buyer and a value buyer? Are there ways to move someone into being value buyer?
Kind of, no. If they’re price buyer, they’ve kind of told you to just buying the cheap thing. I remember when I used to sell shoes the men would come to me that ask for the cheap pair of shoes. Cool. I’ll bring them out. They’re pet size, size 10 and a half, D and a wing tip. That’s what they wanted. Cheap. Dexter’s. Got it. At the same time, I’d bring out the Johnson Murphy, same style, wingtip black, 10 and a half deep, and I’d let that customer put on the cheap thing. They want it. And say, would you like to just try this other one though? And about half the time the men would actually say, wow, I can stand all day in a pair of Johnson and Murphy’s. These Dexters, they look nice. I’ll go to church in them, but I’m not going to stand on the trade floor. This doesn’t make sense for our selling salesperson or for somebody who actually has to go to work and walk in them all the time. Now that price buyer who’s just buying a cheap shoe for special occasions did not trade up very often. Got it.
The other people simply didn’t know the value of buying a better shoe. And that was 20 years ago. Now, you know, there’s much better shoes one can purchase than there were back then, but I was young and those were the only two shoes I knew. You’re going to have to identify them pretty clearly on what they say they want. If you need more details, read “Negotiating with Backbone.”
What are some questions to ask to help identify whether you want to win the business or not? What are some ones you ask to understand whether you can win at all?
In the conversation that you’re having with the customer, I think you’ll start to get a view. We need to understand whether it’s going to be profitable for us or not. Is this a sort of customer that is known for working well with its suppliers or is it known for just trying to screw everybody into the ground on price? They will have a reputation in the marketplace, but also if you look at what they sell to their customers, it value added, or is it cheap? Are they actually going for the lower end of the market? Because if they are, there is a real risk that they’ll want to screw you down on price as part of that initiative.
Is it on your target list? When you start the year, you will have a target list of the kind of customers that you want to deal with. Is this one of them? And if it isn’t, how are you going to justify investing your time, money and effort into it? Is there a conflict of interest or you conflict it out because you know that you’re working with a competitor? I think that there are lots of things and you will get a feel for whether this is the kind of customer that you want.
In your experience, which part of the Value Sales Process do organizations struggle with the most?
To be honest, value discovery. Because value discovery for an awful lot of the people that I’m working with is transformational. Because going back to one of those three challenges I outlined right at the beginning is that salespeople feel comfortable talking about their products. They feel less comfortable talking customer value. So that’s probably it more than anything else. Putting value discovery at the heart of the conversation.
But I think also the bottom line is actually having a sales process at all and getting the sales team to use it. And for me that means is it well-trained? Does everybody know how it works? Is it coached properly? Are they practicing it? And are we practicing in role plays? Because ultimately it needs to be made absolutely second nature. So if we’re talking about this being transformational, moving from product first to customer first, just telling people to do it differently is not going to be enough. The training, the coaching, the roleplaying, the practicing is absolutely critical.