Our websites are filled with content about our ‘unique value propositions,” which inevitably turn out to be not that unique. We constantly declare our value in every conversation we have with customers, positioning it around the superiority of our products and services.
We tend to declare value, without proof and without knowing if it’s what the customer really values.
The reality, value is a mystery.
As sales people, it’s our job to unravel that mystery. We have to do the detective work.
There are at least two dimensions to the concept of “value is a mystery.”
The most obvious is discovering what our customers value. Discovering their needs is a starting point, but it may not lead us to understanding what they value. The thing is, value is seldom about our products/offerings. Yet most of our discovery process focuses on how to position and present our offerings.
Value is all about the customer, what they do, what they need to do, how they feel. It’s about their goals, aspirations, challenges and problems. Our solutions play a part in enabling them to achieve their goals and change. But the value isn’t in the product or solution, itself.
Value is the process of working with customers to help them discover and achieve their goals. It’s learning and discovering with them. It’s the process of the customer moving through their problem solving journey. It’s different a different experience for each opportunity and each customer. There are similarities from our prior experiences, but the situations, people, time, and contexts are different.
As a result, value is a mystery until we are actually engaged in creating and identifying value with the customer. And because we create value with the customer, not for the customer, it is a mystery until we go through the journey with the customer.
Value may be a mystery to the customer. They may not know they should change, they may not know they might have to rethink things. They may not know there may be a better way to do things. Then, later in this journey, they may not know what questions they should be asking, what they should be learning, what they should be thinking about. They may not know who should be involved, how to manage a change process, how to align and make a decision.
Value is a mystery to us and to the customer. We may have some vague notions about what it might be, how to collaborate in creating value with the customer. But we go through this together, working with each other and discovering or demystifying value.
To be honest, at least for me, this is what makes selling so fascinating. It’s the recognition that value is a mystery, and it’s the privilege of demystifying it with customers and clients. What could be better?
Afterword: Thanks to Fred Copestake and Mike Wilkinson for helping me think about this differently! You may be interested in re-reading the similar post I wrote 10 years ago: Value Is A Mystery.