Strategic Programs:
Selling Distinctive Value

"The Best People!"   "Great Reliability!"
"Unequalled Performance!"   "Top Quality!"

Many companies claim their distinctive value in these general terms without realizing these terms are neither distinctive nor have specific value to their customers. These same companies complain about relentless pressure on prices and profit margins, and wonder why their customers treat their products and services as commodities.

Selling Distinctive Value is an intensive, structured process that helps your organization focus on your true distinctive value in the marketplace. The key components are:

  • Determining your true distinctive advantage
  • Creating Financial Advantage: your distinctive advantage translated into a financially measurable benefit
  • Developing the target customer profile that will value your Financial Advantage
  • Ensuring your target customers believe that your Distinctive Value benefits their business

Selling Distinctive Value helps ensure that your customer both recognizes and highly values your distinctiveness. Sounds like a simple concept, so let's examine some of the steps you must take to get to this objective:

 

#1 - Understand your distinctive value.

Most companies spend enormous resources to have their sales force understand their product very well, frequently going as far as making the sales force become expert demonstrators of the product. The big problem with this approach is that you're then depending on your customer to figure out what is truly distinctive about your product and why it should be valuable to them.

To understand your distinctive value, you need to really put yourself into your customer's mind, and answer the critical question, "What's in it for me?" Once you've begun to understand distinctive value from your customer's viewpoint, try discussing your understanding with a friendly customer to verify your view, and get some suggestions from your customer.

 

#2 - Value your distinctive value.

This step can be pretty straight forward if you really understand your customer's business. (Unfortunately, not many of us have this level of understanding.)

Think carefully about your distinctiveness, and the potential beneficial impact (or avoidance of negative consequences) that you can have on your customer's operations. For example, if you sell a product whose distinctiveness is very high reliability, ask yourself, "What are the consequences to my customer's production of using a product with lower reliability? What is the extra profit that results from the extra production caused by my product's higher reliability?"

Once you understand the beneficial impact, developing a typical return on investment scenario is straightforward. Again, you should ask your friendly customer to help you verify your analysis.

 

#3 - Get your customer to recognize and value your distinctive value.

Just as you were thinking, "those first two steps were easy, we're almost done", we get to the difficult step. Your understanding and valuation of your distinctive value is nice, but not terribly important unless your customer believes it!

Many sales people believe that the solution to having their customer believe them is simple - "I'll just tell them, and tell them, and tell them again!!" - until they believe me. Human nature being human nature, this approach doesn't work very well. We all instinctively realize that we believe much more strongly what we say than what others (particularly sales people) say to us.

Our successful approach to this critical step is a method we call "Intelligent Questioning", a method that causes your customer to come to the correct beliefs regarding your distinctive value on their own, with some guidance by yourself.

Unfortunately, "Intelligent Questioning" requires a difficult discipline for many sales people - they must learn to listen and not do most of the talking. In fact, we recommend a goal for sales calls of having your customer talk 80% of the time, and the sales rep talk 20% of the time. To effectively apply the "Intelligent Questioning” discipline, try a “safe practice” approach that allows your sales team to engage with real business executives and receive detailed feedback.

 

#4- Understand and engage with all the buying influences.

Many technology companies focus on selling to the IT department & CIO. This is a major mistake because for most technology products and services, the real customer (and the economic buyer) is in the specific business unit that’s being served by the IT department.

To succeed in selling to large customers, you need to understand the concept of “Your Customer’s Customer”, that is the business unit in your customer that receives the positive impact from using your product/service. Many times the customer’s customer is actually a separate company. For example, a manufacturer of aircraft electronics whose distinctive value was reduced weight had no success selling that distinctive value to the aircraft manufacturers (Boeing, Airbus, etc.). Once the manufacturer started selling to the actual customer (the airlines) that could appreciate their distinctive value in terms of reduced fuel costs, the ability to have more cargo, etc. their sales were successful.

 

Selling Distinctive Value combines high-level consulting, facilitation of a series of workshops, and implementation assistance to ensure that your staff can quickly use these concepts in an effective manner. Depending on your sales environment, we may also use components of our Strategic Customer Planning and our Executive Selling programs.

Selling Distinctive Value will assist companies that want to increase profits, improve customer retention, and win new business at a faster rate.

 

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