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Q: How do you convert a price and product teller to a consultative value seller?
Tim: If you’re in sales and have been around for ten or twenty years, constantly getting beat up on price; at some point you think, “Is there a better way to do this?” Well, there is a better way. I would try to convince the group that this is a better way to go, but it’s really up to you how you want to play this out as a salesperson. You will get some people who will not go the economic value route because they don’t like financials. There will be folks who say, “I just want to go on the basis of relationship and product.” But for those people who really want to do it differently, who want to sell to higher levels and be successful there, it’s an exciting way to go. A little financial knowledge will help them get there, and let them make that decision. Some people want to do this and can’t, but most people can if given the right kind of information.
Greg: I would add that you really need to have a guiding coalition of sales leadership, and even CEO or division leadership that declares it’s important and that it works. If you get a few early adopters in your salesforce to actually do the hard work and have some success, once you have those hits, you can celebrate them and communicate them. People will start to see that this can work. All of sudden, you’re getting more and more people that buy into it as a best practice and it becomes contageous.
Q: Does it make sense to split the sales force between value sellers and the others?
Tim: It depends on the business. In the first year or so, I would not split the organization until your segmentation is much clearer from the standpoint of who your salespeople and customers are from a value standpoint. This is because in any territory there will be an 80-20 mix where you have good potential to move folks up to that value level, and if you try to make too many cute decisions before you understand who they are, then you could exclude some opportunities. Don’t worry about segmenting too much and making decisions upfront; let it run for a year or a little more, and you’ll begin to see patterns in terms of folks willing to step up to this business partner level. Once you start seeing that line up, then you should make decisions around how you go after it. At that point, I would recommend taking a look at segmenting the sales force to those folks who are identified as value partners, and make that a separate organization within the organization.
Greg: It works both ways. In my experience, almost anybody can learn how to value sell. It’s a matter of how long it takes them to either want to, or to understand it. But even if you’re selling a commodity, you can value sell that because there will be things that differentiate you. Everybody will have both types of customers in their territory, so it’s important to be able to do both.
Q: Value-based selling has been around for a while with ROI models and NPV. How would you describe the differences between the approach that you talked about today and the traditional financial justification approach?
Tim: This is not about an approach that sets the salesperson up to go into a customer with a spreadsheet early in the conversation and lay out the cost/benefit analysis. This is because customers will naturally be suspicious of any numbers you may provide to them without their input. The key to success here is the process by which you gather that information. You need to work in concert with the key decision makers and with those that provide you information like techincal data; those who are with you all the way, and understand exactly what they are giving to you. By the time you wrap it up and position it to the senior management team, you have advocates on the customer side working with you. That way it’s not a surprise presentation, it’s something that is worked on organically with the customer, who has as much a stake in making sure that it works as the supplier does. Everybody wins.
What’s different is the acknowledgement that the salesperson is working in conjunction with the customer, and has the attitude going in that by learning information from the customer that is going to help them make money and make the customer look good, then they can’t lose. It’s the mindset that you can’t lose if the customer works with you the way that they’re capable of, and providing them with value they can’t get anywhere else.