Let’s start this discussion about building a value process with five fundamental thoughts about value:
1. Value is defined by the prospect, not by the salesperson. Just because you can build an ROI spreadsheet that shows how the prospect will benefit doesn’t mean the prospect will see value. This is true even if you have provided huge value to companies just like this prospect – if there are 100 identical companies in a market segment and you are doing business with ninety-nine of them, the initial reaction of number 100 to your ROI presentation will be “MY business is different.”
2. There is no solution without a problem. This seems obvious, but it’s not. If the prospect does not see she has a critical problem to be solved or exceptional opportunity to be grasped, she will see no value to your solution, however powerful and elegant it is.
3. If the prospect, with your assistance, can’t quantify the cost of not solving the problem or grasping the opportunity, it is impossible for you to establish the value of investing in your solution.
4. The real value isn’t about the features of your product, or even the solution to a problem – it’s about the outcome the prospect achieves and whether the benefit of the outcome is significantly larger than the investment required to achieve it.
5. Value is not something you can pitch – you must develop it together with your prospect.
So a sales approach that assumes a prospect will buy because they are convinced by a “value proposition” that you present to them is just not going to work very well. This is true even if the value proposition is well thought out and based on real problems that you know your prospects have. Given this, how do you implement a process of building value?
Building value is a cooperative effort between you and your prospect. It requires that together you discover, identify, and quantify a critical problem that your product can help solve or opportunity that you can help your prospect grasp. It’s a discussion, not a presentation or demonstration. You may even be helping your prospect discover that a difficulty that has been seen as “just the way we’ve always done this” is really an opportunity to use your product or service to provide an outcome that makes things significantly better.
So how can you manage this discussion to progress toward a decision to purchase your product – or to quickly determine that you can’t help this prospect and should move on? A method that my clients have used with great success is built around the idea of arriving at a series of four agreements with their prospect. As you will see, each agreement builds on the previous agreements, and each offers both the salesperson and the prospect the opportunity to decide either to continue or abandon the discussion.
Here are the four agreements between the salesperson and the prospect:
1. We agree that the prospect has a problem that is important enough that we need to continue to explore it. This agreement establishes that there’s a reason to spend some effort thinking about the problem and allows you to continue the conversation.
2. We agree that the cost of not solving this problem is significant enough to consider investing in a solution. This is the key agreement. It quantifies the problem and establishes the context in which the prospect can justify investing in your solution.
3. We agree that there might be solutions that would solve, or at least mitigate, the problem. This is the “what if we could” stage of the discussion. You are exploring ways that the problem might be solved. It’s important to note that you are NOT pitching, demonstrating, or selling your solution at this point. You are acting as a part of the prospect’s team, continuing to discuss whether or not it is worth investing in a solution to this problem. You are also broadening the scope of the problem discussion to be sure all the positive effects of solving it are being considered, and that all the costs of not solving it are understood. This agreement establishes that the benefit of solving the problem significantly outweighs the investment required to solve it.
4. Finally, we agree that your solution offers the best solution to the problem. This is where you use the presentation and demonstration you have customized for this prospect and problem to convince the prospect that you can provide the best outcome as you help solve the problem.
If you are able to obtain these four agreements from the prospect, you have an order. It’s as simple as that – it’s not easy, but it works. In my next post, I’ll discuss why this works, and how using this value-building process benefits both you and your prospect.