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Why Do We Continue To Get The Basics Of Value So Wrong?

by David Brock on August 9th, 2016

Hopefully, any person in a sales role knows the importance of value–whatever you choose to call it, a value proposition, value creation/co-creation, value articulation, value delivery, value realization.

Hopefully, anyone who has been in sales more than 5 minutes knows we have to provide differentiated value to even hope to compete, let alone win.

While it doesn’t seem an advanced concept, sales professionals should know that only the customer can define what they value, that we have to position what we do in the context of what each customer values.

All of these seem to be the very most basic tenets of value–which every sales person talks about.

But why do we consistently get it so wrong—from the very first communication through too much of the sales process?

Every customer is different, what they value is different and changes over time.  To understand what each customer values requires us to engage, listen and probe.

In spite of this we know there are some commonalities for 99.999% of customers.  They are the fundamentals of value, which we should be focusing on in every interaction from the very first to the last.

  • We know customers want sales people who know and understand their products.
  • We know customers want sales people who understand them, their businesses, and the key issues in they might be facing in those businesses.
  • We know customers don’t want their time wasted, they value their time and want it used well.
  • We know customers care about what they care about, not what sales people care about.

These are the fundamentals of what customers value.  Yet market survey after market survey continues to show customers don’t see these from sales people.

  • How many surveys, how many phone hang-ups, how many unopened emails, how many times do we keep doing the same things–failing to address the most basic of what customers value.
  • Why is it acceptable to send an email that starts with Hi or something other than my name?
  • Why is it acceptable to get the name of my company wrong?
  • Why is it acceptable not to know what business I’m in or the issues I might be interested int?
  • Why is it acceptable to focus on what you want to achieve, not what I want to achieve?
  • Why is it acceptable to pitch your product and how great it is before knowing whether I care?
  • When I talk to you on the phone, why are you clueless about me and my business?
  • Why don’t you ask me about some of the key issues or goals in the business?
  • Why can’t you tell me something interesting or new about my industry that I might learn?
  • Why is your only goal to get me to commit to a demo from someone that really knows the product, without knowing that I want, can use, or even have the problems your product addresses?
  • Why do you figure a good use of your time is a good use of my time?
  • Why do you continue to act on what’s important to you, without focusing on what’s important to me?
  • Why do I feel cheated in every interaction, thinking, “I could have spent my time better doing something else?”

This is not rocket science!  It’s the fundamentals of understanding what customers value and engaging them in ways they value!

We can’t help not knowing the basics of what customers value!  We see it in hundreds of articles and books.  We see it in our own numbers and performance.  We hear it daily from frustrated/pissed off prospects and customers.

If we can’t get the most basic elements of value right, then how do we possibly hope to have a deeper discussion with the customer about co-creating value?

Instead of doing the simple things customers are begging us to do, we continue on the same path that caused them to be disengaged and pissed off, yet we ramp the volume and velocity up.

Selling and engaging customers really isn’t that hard.  All we have to do us understand what they value, engage them in ways they value and move forward.

Note To Managers:  Ensuring sales people are equipped and executing on these basic elements of value is a management responsibility.  We have to make sure our people understand and execute behaviors that are aligned with what the customer values.  If we aren’t coaching them on these, how do we expect them to change?

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One Comment
  1. Brian MacIver permalink

    Thanks Dave for the link to HBR on the Value pyramid.

    A VERY interesting paper. We, since the 1980’s have talked, often, about Passive Value eg “Convenient” and ACTIVE Value WHY is it ‘Convenient’. The exercise we run, has the intended Consequence to improve Value Based Questions.
    Thus enables the Seller to offer Specific, active and often measureable Value.
    Again, Thanks.

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