Seven Hard Truths About Selling Value

By Rachel Cavallo on Feb 19, 2021

5 Minute Estimated Read Time

Everyone wants to sell their offerings for more, but sales teams are continually torn between the corporate message “we need to sell value; what we offer is worth more than what we're getting” versus the customer message “we can’t spend that” or "your competitor's price was better."

Here’s the reality. Value selling is hard. It’s very doable, and quite frankly, it's the right thing to do, unless you want to erode margins to the point of zero profitability. But to do it right, you’ve got to face seven hard truths head on.

1. You must be different from your competition, and you must be able to clearly articulate that difference.

I’m often stunned at how many sellers really don’t understand or keep current with their competitors' offerings. How can you differentiate yourself if you don’t know what you are differentiating against? 

So What Can You Do? 

Proactively track your competitors. Start with the people who know them best… your customers and prospects. 

  • Conduct loss analysis. When you lose, survey the customer to find out why they chose your competitor over you.
  • Track competitor developments. Set up Google news alerts to track your competitors. Use the same discovery skills you use on customers for your competitors.

 

2. Your customer must actually want or need that “thing” that makes you different.

If your key differentiator isn’t something that the customer needs or recognizes that they need, they won’t pay more for it…. Sorry, but that “benefit” really isn’t a benefit at all if customers don’t value it… it’s just a “feature.”  

So What Can You Do?

  • Change the conversation. Start by helping the customer see why they need what you uniquely offer AND why it is so valuable to them. If they can’t see it or truly have no reason to value it (e.g., your differentiator is your global reach, and they are a domestic company with no plans to expand), either accept that you are going to have to sell on price (you may have a good reason for it) or…
  • Qualify out customers who truly aren’t a fit. Then, you can spend more timing finding customers who need what you offer.

 

3. Not all customers with the same profile value the same things.

Strategies are different, budgets are different, and the motivations of decisions makers are different… to name a few. When you blindly assume that similar customers value the same things, you will likely waste everyone's time (and potentially not hit on the right points to turn the customer). 

So What Can You Do?

  • Conduct effective discovery. This is critical. You can’t just ask questions about what the customer needs relative to your offering; you need to conduct discovery about their business, their motivations, and the broader challenges that are keeping them up at night (but please don’t ask, “What’s keeping you up at night?"). It's important to uncover those critical elements of their business to best understand if you are in fact offering the best solution for them or if they will value the unique qualities of what you have to offer. Refer to this 60-Day Challenge to improve your team’s customer discovery skills.
  • Dig deeper for complex offerings. The more complex the offering, the more thorough the discovery should be. The more complex your offering, the more areas of the customer's business you are likely to impact; so, prepare for more than one conversation with more than one decision maker or stakeholder.

 

4. Customers rarely change their decision criteria late in the buying process.

If you enter the conversation midway through the buying process, you are probably already column fodder (e.g., the decision maker chose to look at two vendors, and procurement required them to add a third). Even if you are not, however, the customer is not likely to derail his decision-making unless you make a spectacularly compelling argument. Remember, the other vendors have already anchored them on both decision criteria and price. If your competitors know your offering well, they’ve probably already downplayed your unique qualities such that the customer doesn’t value them as much as they would have if you were participating in the conversation earlier.

So What Can You Do?

  • Get there early. If you want to change what a customer values and why, you need to talk to them early in the sales process.  This often means talking to customers or prospects long before they realize they have a need.
  • Consider qualifying out. If you realize after the first conversation that you are late to the process, start by asking why. Unless the customer has decided to pass on other vendors, consider whether this is worth the fight. Test your messaging and pricing. If it doesn’t resonate, you may be better off walking away than investing time in a sale that was never going to go your way.

 

5. Trust is critical for customers making a value buy.

Your customers take a leap of faith when they pay a higher price. They know they will have to support their decisions to their stakeholders – their jobs or reputations may be on the line. They need to feel comfortable that you are going to deliver on what you've promised. Trust doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a series of intentional moments where you demonstrate that you know their needs and challenges intimately, that you are putting their needs first, that you have a viable product you can stand behind, and that there is a clear business case for the decision they are about to make.  

So What Can You Do?

 

6. YOU can (and should) be a valuable differentiator. 

When you meet with your customers, you are more than just the face of your products. In fact, your customers need to do more than just trust you – they need to need you. After all, YOU are the person who meets with your customers’ competitors and peers; you are the expert on the product that you are offering; and you are the one whose expertise makes that part of your customers’ jobs easier every day by solving problems, servicing your offering, and bringing them new information. 

So What Can You Do? 

Become a differentiator...

  • Stay up-to-date. Keep your product knowledge current.
  • Be responsible. Take responsibility for any customer service issues until they are resolved.
  • Never stop learning. Make the time to be a student of your market and your customers’ businesses.

 

7. Price still matters. 

Yes, even when you knock it out of the park selling on value, you still need to be able to justify your price … and the customer’s return on investment. Consider how much your customer is willing to pay for those unique benefits that you provide. In theory, that’s how much more you can charge, but… there are complicating factors: budgets, spending authority, competing priorities, and pressure from within the organization. 

So What Can You Do?

  • Create a business case. Make it crystal clear for the customer to see (and hopefully quantify) the ROI. Engage the customer in this process so they are bought into the assumptions and can sell it internally.
  • Get creative. If you are asking beyond what your customer thinks they can spend, you’ll need to get creative – help them tap into other budgets that will benefit from what they are buying, look at payment terms, spread the payment over multiple budget cycles… there are a number of possibilities, and if you’ve really done the right job of getting your customer sold on your value, your customer may be willing to collaborate with you on how to get it done.

To reiterate, value selling is HARD. I don’t recommend going it alone. Leverage your sales leader, your marketing and product teams, and your peers. Ask for information and materials, collaborate and brainstorm with your leaders and peers, and continuously ask for feedback from your customers.

Rachel Cavallo

Written by Rachel Cavallo

If there’s anyone who understands how sales people tick, it’s Rachel Cavallo. Rachel specializes in strategies that drive sales forces to adopt real change… the kind of change that produces results. She has managed many sales force transformations, helping sales leaders realign organizations and define new selling models, as well as designed and delivered sales training, coaching, and change management programs. At Symmetrics Group, Rachel is loved for her creativity and big picture thinking – she has a knack for crystallizing complex concepts into a single picture with high impact messages.

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