In answering a question at Focus.com, my friend and business partner, Anthony Iannarino, made a very important observation: “Value creation isn’t usually the result of having the best answer, but usually the result of asking the best questions.” I couldn’t agree more.
This is critical, yet too few sellers, marketers, and product managers understand this. Customers don’t buy great products and services, they buy business improvement. They buy solutions to problems, the ability to address new opportunities, the chance to grow profitability. Customer buy the chance to have a life and not be tied to their Blackberries or email, they buy the promotion, bonus, the opportunity to simplify things, or possibility the opportunity to keep their jobs.
As sales people, value creation starts with understanding what customers value. Before we even walk in the door, we need to understand their business, markets, customers, and competition. When we initially meet, we need to understand what drives them—both the enterprise and the individuals involved in the decision. It means probing, challenging, helping them understand new approaches. It mean helping create a vision of new futures or different possibilities.
Value creation goes further, it’s about facilitating the customer’s buying process. Our customers don’t necessarily know how to buy. They may not know how to initiate and manage the change that comes with buying. Sales people create value in the buying process, helping the customer understand how to buy, manage their own organizations, and manage change.
With the increasing importance of social networking/media, value creation starts even earlier. It starts with the conversations we participate in and initiate in the “communities” in which we participate. Value creation in the social world is not about “shouting” about our products, but more about engaging the community in provocative conversations, stimulating the discussion, and educating our followers.
Value creation and differentiation starts with great questions. It starts first with understanding, creating new visions, and new opportunities. It starts with engagement, not pitching. Once we understand what customers value, then we can present how we deliver value in ways that are meaningful to them.
Are you creating value for your customers and prospects? Are you asking great questions, are you probing to better understand? Are you offering new ideas, helping them see new possibilities? Value creation starts with great questions.