As progressive sales practitioners we work hard to get our clients focus on articulating and demonstrating their value to earn more sales.
Recently, a business owner I’ve met several times, let’s call him Mr. Discouraged, approached me at an event and he said to me, “Look, I read your blogs and I’ve been doing this a long time. You talk about ‘Value, value, value . . .’ and all my customers want to do is talk ‘price, price, price’. I’d love to talk to them about why we’re a better value and why we charge more but they all say they need to get at least 3 bids and they pick the lowest one. They don’t care about value. We’re all competing on price.”
I put aside his rather machismo approach because I could clearly see he was frustrated. He was in construction and had been in business for twenty plus years. He recognizes the need to do something different to get out of the margin squeeze price wars. He wanted to have the value conversations. He wanted to articulate his value.
I responded to his frustration with a good news, bad news answer.
The bad news first: You can’t expect or demand that everyone in a mature industry quickly adapts to your line of thinking. There was rationale and reason procurement departments instituted RFP’s and bid processes – though it ultimately reduces your product or service to a commodity.
The good news: You can impact the buying process – even in a bid or RFP situation. You CAN have the value conversation – you just have to start it much earlier than you think.
How To Get To The VALUE Conversations? Start MUCH Earlier.
Mr. Discouraged is frustrated because he’s trying to gain leverage or position without having earned the right to have any Value Conversations. He’s asking the buyer to “change horses mid-stream”. The buyer has put together the criteria for purchase and created their decision making matrix. Mr. D wants to create a new conversation and challenge the work they’ve already done.
He would have a great opportunity to discuss his value proposition if he incorporated his specific and unique value in to his values and made them clear and transparent throughout every aspect of his business.
I looked up Mr. Discouraged’s website and a few of his competitors and they all pretty much said the same things, “pride ourselves on value, customer service . . . blah, blah, blah”. None of them were specific about what, why or how they create or amplify value and none of them gave any examples of how they have created value for customers.
Buyers research vendors – even if they’re putting together a bid process or RFP. They’re out there looking at potential suppliers. If they find you, your testimonials, your reviews, your case studies, your blog, your VALUES, you have the opportunity to influence what the buyer finds important. If you aren’t visible and vocal about what makes you valuable – you are missing a prime opportunity to contribute to the buyer’s value conversations.
Sharing your value means demonstrating how your value impacts your customers. Articulating that value is more than making general “nice” statements on your business cards and website:
- What do your clients think of you? Can they share their experiences in reviews, testimonials or videos?
- Why are you in this business? What are your founding principals?
- Can you share your commitment to the industry and cutting edge education?
- Can you demonstrate your commitment to being helpful through a weekly blog post?
- Are you connecting with potential customers via LinkedIn or through newsletters?
Think of your digital and social channels as opportunities for “Conversation Starters” – you may not know when or where those conversations are happening but they can introduce your value and what makes you valuable, what makes you unique and how you benefit your customers in a way that qualifies price and differentiates you from the competition.
Yes, some purchasing situations are more difficult to get to the value conversation – especially if you’re approaching buyers after they’ve built their framework to make the purchase. You are probably not going to overhaul the way an industry purchases over night or with just one conversation.
However, if you start the conversation by thoroughly demonstrating your value throughout all your contact points by speaking to your potential Audience, you have the opportunity to take the first step in influencing whether or not you can have a “next” conversation about value, instead of just getting the opportunity to turn in a bid.
Start much earlier and be demonstrate how you can be more valuable.
Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!