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Earning The Right To Be A Value Creator

by David Brock on April 3rd, 2012

Yesterday, I wrote about Value Creation.  One individual raised an interesting point in a discussion on LinkedIn.  He said his customers really value his approach in value creation.  They saw it as a differentiator and is was important in differentiating himself from others.  But he went on to say that he didn’t get the same positive response from new prospects.

This is a great issue, it’s one that impacts anyone who is “Challenging” their prospects.  I think the problem is that we have to “earn the right to Challenge or create Value.”

Challenging must have a foundation built on trust.  Absent that, it’s arrogance or insensitivity–even though you may be right.  Think about it, what’s new about approaching a prospect in a provocative way—ho hum, what’s new!  Everyday, customers and prospects are deluged with ever escalating volume (figuratively and literally) of “messages” or “pitches.”  They are bombarded with astounding offers and “miracle cures” from people they don’t know.

Think from the customer’s view, “Here’s this person I don’t know, someone who doesn’t know me.  They don’t know my business, they don’t know my priorities, they don’t understand what I am trying to achieve.  But they already have the answers?!?  They are already pushing me about how I need to change my business!”

Customers want to be heard.  They want to someone to listen to them, to understand.  Absent this Challenging is just another form of pitching–it becomes one size fits all, not an opportunity for the customer.  Too often, we see the “Challenger presentation,”  it’s the presentation marketing has carefully researched and constructed, the one that sales people have been trained in how to deliver, the one that’s provocative, interesting, but lacks any understanding of the customer.  It may be tuned to a “persona,” but customers are not personas, they’re people  (Don’t get me wrong, I believe in personas, but they are a starting point, not a destination.)

Customers want to understand your intent.  Barriers are high, rightfully so.  They’ve experienced too much from sales people just looking for an order.  They’ve seen too much “me thinking” from sales people.

Customers want to understand that you “know your stuff.”   More importantly, they want to know that you “know their stuff.”  They want to know that you really understand their business, that you really understand what they are trying to achieve and why.  They want to make sure that you are aligned with that, that you can bring ideas that will help them achieve their goals–or that you have a context in which to get them to think differently.

Customers want to know that you are trustworthy, we have to earn that trust.

Earning the customer’s trust doesn’t take a lot of time.  In fact, you start establishing trust through your very first interactions with the customer.  (Read my friend Charlie Green’s stuff–it’s fundamental to your success!)

Value Creation is critical!  Challenging our customers creates great breakthroughs!  However, before we challenge, before we create value, we have to first earn that right.

Have you earned the right?

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  1. Are you using the words “Challenge” and “Challenging” in the context of the book The Challenger Sale?

    If you are, then the context is wrong.

    The Challenge from TCS is to be able to “Teach” the Prospect an insight into their business.

    This is NOT an “earned right”,
    but an “offer” which may be accepted or rejected by the Prospect.

    Trust was NOT a highly rated attribute of Sales Success,
    but new and fresh Insights were most highly rated by Prospects.

    “Personas” in the Challenger Sales become “individuals” who are given “Tailored” not generic insights.

    Challenger selling is a SALES skill;
    it is NOT delivering Marketing Content.

    Although many internal departments may contribute insights which Sales “Teach”.

    I know this is new, current and unorthodox but it really works,
    rather than previously used to work.

    • Brian: Great comments! Some clarification, I was actually referring to the generic sense of Challenger and Challenging, though I believe it does apply to TCS/Challenger. Clearly, we want to teach, we want to provide new insights. We want to make an “offer” to a prospect, but we want to position that offer in a way that has a very high probability of being both accepted, received, and seriously considered. To achieve this, there is some “earning,” that’s required. We have to have some credibility, we have to some basis or “permission,” to challenge or teach. That permission may be an institutional based permission, i.e. because of the reputation of our company, the prospect is willing to meet with us. It may be a personal based permission, i.e. because of the customer’s past experience of us, what they know of our reputation, they want to listen/learn.

      One of the problems I have with TCS/Challenger, is they basically start with the “meeting presumed.” They provide little about getting the meeting. There are lots of things, we and our organizations can do to help “earn the right to meet.” There are further things we must do to maximize the customer’s receptivity to our message and teaching. There is more that must be done to maximize the likelihood the customer will take action on the teaching we provide. We earn the ability to do this in each interaction with the customer.

      I agree that “Relationship Selling,” is not a highly rated attribute in the book (i.e. the stereotypical view of the back slapping, go to lunch, play golf type of sales person). Here, is where I think the language may be confusing, relationships and trust are fundamental underpinnings to human interaction. Based on their writings and my email discussions with Matt, I don’t think they would disagree. Taken to an extreme, if it were just the “content” of the teaching, then the sales person becomes unnecessary to the interchange. But it’s more than the content, the teaching and the new insight that drives the customer to be receptive and to consider taking action.

      I couldn’t agree more that the communications have to be tailored to the individual, otherwise it becomes a “dear occupant or current resident.” Unfortunately, as you might have also experienced, I see too many people missing this point and doing “generic” presentations. As you suggest, this really is far from the intent of TCS Challenger.

      The Challenger Approach does work. The authors have done great research and have turned the crank on Solutions/Customer Focused/Consultative selling and updated it for the “challenges” of today’s selling environment in a very powerful way. I would tend not to position it as unorthodox (that might cause more resistance/skeptiicism than acceptance). It really is a great extension and update of the work of Neil Rackham, Mack Hanan, others — even Drucker. I think they have packaged it in a way that makes their work more relevant to the current realities.

      Thanks for the great insights.

  2. Thanks for your Clarification, Dave.

    We, in Sales, are going to have to accommodate the word “Challenger”,
    in a few different ways rather like the words “Fox” and “Coach!”

    There is a lot of interest in “practical” Challenger Selling,
    and I am happy to share some insights in putting it to work.

    A really simple and very effective Sales Behaviour change is here:

    This is definitely in your “Right to offer Value” theme.

    • Thanks, Brian, the problem is we don’t have enough words to describe all these things, so we tend to overlap their use 😉

      Your blog post on the How/Why is quite good. I’ll be sure to tweet it. Regards, Dave

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