Do Your Prospects Recognize Your Value?
What would selling look like if it was easy? In a perfect world, prospects would immediately recognize the value your product or solution delivers and take the required actions to secure the solution for themselves. For example, most of us, if we find a hundred-dollar bill on a sidewalk, would bend over and snatch it off the ground. Why? Because the value is immediately recognized. Therefore, value can be proposed but until prospects recognize value, they will remain hesitant to move forward in the sales process. In this article we will explore the relationship between value recognition and improving sales outcomes.
Communicating Value is Hard
In the real world, the challenge for sales reps is to communicate value, because buyers are more sophisticated and better informed than ever. Today, every buyer is a business analyst thanks to Google. By spending a few hours researching online, a buyer can become well informed on almost any subject, product, or category. With Google they can do their own research, compare products, read reviews, and contact only the companies they short-listed based on their research. The scary part is, if your company is making the shortlist but not converting these prospects into clients, the problem is likely value creation/recognition, not your value proposition. Your value proposition might generate interest and create a lead, but value recognition is what converts leads into clients. In complex sales, it is the responsibility of the sales rep to ensure that their prospect recognize value at each stage of the sales process.
Value recognition is a key driver to improved sales performance. In simplified terms, your sales process should convey value so thoroughly your prospects would feel foolish to say no. But because value is subjective to each individual prospect, communicating value to prospects is not as easy as showing them a cut-and-paste PowerPoint and telling them that your widget will help them make more money with less effort. Modern buyers are too sophisticated to make a purchase decision without extensive research.
This creates a challenge when most sales reps are trained only in the company’s value proposition. For instance, they can recite the company’s value prop to prospects and still walk away without converting the prospect to a client. Because at the end of the day, the value proposed was not in alignment with the value the prospect was looking for. To succeed in complex sales, sellers must help buyers process specific information that will help them with a specific problem worth solving.
You can see this disconnect using the drill vs. the hole analogy – a sales rep pitching the proverbial drill when all the prospect wanted was a hole. Proposing a drill when a hole is needed results in frustrated sellers and buyers. The role of the sales rep is to understand the problem the prospect wants to solve. When a sales rep uncovers the true value the prospect requires, they don’t sell the product (drill) but provide the solution (hole). This is the difference between a traditional sales rep and a trusted advisor. Trusted advisors are more problem solvers than product sellers. This requires a shift in traditional sales training and the sales process.
Value is Not One Size Fits All
Value is not a one-size-fits-all proposition for every prospect. So why do we focus on proposing value before we identify the needed solution? Because it is easier to assume we know what the prospect wants. Traditional sales reps are trained to deliver value and when given the opportunity, they tend to show-up and talk when they have the prospect’s attention. A contributing factor is that sellers have less time with buyers because more of the research is done prior to first contact with the salesperson. Therefore, when sellers find an opportunity to talk about their solution, they are like a racehorse out of the gate.
Using the drill and the hole analogy again, some prospects may want a quarter-inch hole, while others need a half-inch hole. Additionally in complex sales, prospects often may not realize they need a hole. When a sales rep prematurely offers a solution to a problem the prospect is not concerned with, instead of creating value, they are destroying value. This type of value destruction is a very expensive problem for some organizations. When prospects say, “This isn’t a priority for us right now,” “Maybe next quarter,” or “We need to think about this,” then their answers are indications that value was not recognized.
Value Disconnect in the Sales Process
Just like value is not a one size fits all proposition for prospects, neither is it a straight line in the sales process. Clearly, the value needed to prompt a website visitor to submit their contact information is different from the value required for a prospect to attend a demonstration, which is different from the value required to sign a 12-month contract.
The best companies are building incremental value in each phase of the sales process. They aren’t relying on individual sales reps to magically close the prospect at the conclusion of the sales cycle. When companies struggle to scale sales, it’s often because they are not building a repeatable sales process and instead rely on a few superstar sales reps too heavily. It is difficult to scale with superstars because there are no processes in place that can be replicated. The thinking is that two new hires, who will do just half of what a superstar sales rep is able to achieve, is still like adding another superstar. But that math rarely works because the superstar is doing things intuitively and there is no documented process that the new sales hires can follow. Sales processes are scalable, sales superstars, not so much.
Where is the Value Disconnect?
Every blog post, book, and social media post will declare that selling has changed. But traditional sales reps are trained to assume they can prepackage value for prospects, hence the reason most sales reps miss quota. Sales managers believe by increasing the quota of their sales reps, they can improve sales performance. The assumption is that we sold X last year, so this year we can sell X plus 10%. But until prospects recognize a 10% increase in value, sales performance will not improve. If you want more stable sales results, forget about increasing quota and instead create better processes and hold your sales team accountable.
Creating Value in the Sales Process
As much as selling has changed, the other side of this coin is that buying has changed just as much also. Because buyers have access to more information, this makes deciding on the best solution more difficult. Too much information causes information overload and leads to paralysis by analysis. As sellers, we’ve all heard of sales enablement to increase sales efficiency, but who talks about buyer enablement?
How can we build buyer enablement into our sales process? By giving buyers access to information they cannot find on Google. This is the hard-won, industry-specific knowledge, that is typically siloed with superstars. When sales leaders take the time to reverse engineer the sales process and document how your solution works in the customer’s context, sales reps have a better understanding of how their solution will create value and buyers recognize value.
When an organization takes the time to build world-class sales processes, they do not need world-class sales talent. With a world-class sales process, the organization can deliver better quality and consistency to each prospect throughout the sales cycle. If the goal of the sales organization is to increase every sales reps’ ability to drive high-value customer interactions‚ then equipping reps with the right information is the best way to achieve that objective.
What clients value changes over time. Having a one-size-fits-all mentality about value can lead to sales stagnation. The best companies build value into their entire sales process and do not rely on superstar closers. They are teaching everyone on their sales team how to create, communicate and deliver value for their prospects. The modern sales process is not about figuring out how to get prospects to accept a pre-packaged solution but instead uncovering the real problems clients want to solve. Having salespeople uncover value for the customer is a hard thing to accomplish. Trusted advisors create value, articulate value, passionately and relentlessly drive value until completion.
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