I have to thank Mike Wilkinson of Axia Value Solutions for this idea, but when he emailed me with the notion of Value Is A Mystery, it really got me thinking.
From a sales point of view, it’s easy to understand that Value Is A Mystery, after all the only side of value that we know is what we can do, our products, services, capabilities, reputation, and so forth. But until we know how our customer define value, it’s a mystery to us. Sure we can approximate what they might think of in terms of value. Hopefully, our product managers have spent a lot of time talking to and living with customers, so we have some idea. We also have probably sold our products and services to other similar customers and have had success within certain sectors or applications, so we aren’t completely clueless. Knowing our customers’ business challenges, strategies, priorities, problems, opportunities and needs, give us more insight and clues.
I don’t want to mislead you, we have lots of clues and indicators, we have some great starting points, but until we have spoken directly with the customer–each customer involved in the buying process, Value Is A Mystery to us. It takes deep conversations with each customer involved in the buying process to de-mystify value, to learn what they value, and then to translate what we can do about it–creating value for them.
So there’s the first part, how do we as sales professionals De-Mystify Value. Not to difficult, probe, observe, engage in the right conversations with the right people, and so on.
However, I started thinking a little further, could it be that Value Is A Mystery to our customers? The more I thought about it, I began to realize that perhaps I’ve been trivializing the task of determining what customers value. I’ve written often about value being in the eye of the beholder–that is the customer. I’ve written about methods sales professionals can use to engage the customer and determine what they value, then present their solutions in a differentiated manner. But could it be the Value Is A Mystery to our customers?
As I reflected, we’re all pretty good at asking those glib questions, “What keeps you up at night?” And customers are equally glib at responding. We’ve been taught over and over to find the customers pain, to determine what’s in it for them, to assess needs, identify problems. Those give us clues and insight, but they really don’t get at the issue of what customers value.
But asking a customer what they value probably brings back a blank stare. I don’t think there are any sets of questions and answers that get us to what customers value. We certainly can get the data, but I think value has another dimension do it. I think there is an emotional element in value that we can’t get by collecting the data. I think there is an element of value that may be a mystery to customers themselves. They may have never thought about it, they may not have been able to articulate it or even felt comfortable articulating it. Like us, they know the data, but that data is only meaningful in a context–it’s that context where value becomes de-mystified.
When we start exploring the context in which value lives, we start understanding why customers may make what appear to be irrational decisions. We start demystifying value, when in conversation all of a sudden you see the customer’s eyes light up, they have that “aha” moment. Or maybe they sit back and think, they may say something like “I never thought of it that way,” or “I learned something new.” Or there is this magic change iu energy level, engagement, openness–we suddenly move from question and answer (ping-pong-ping-pong) to a conversation.
Value Is A Mystery– to our customers and to sales. It’s the great sales professional that recognizes this, moves from questions and answers into a richer conversation, colored with context and emotion. This is where value lives, this is where value becomes demystified.
What are your experiences? Is value a mystery to our customers? What are some of the ways you have de-mystified value? I can put my fingers on part of this, but I’d love to learn more.