Selling value – great is the new black – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

Salespeople must, in a compelling way, make the connection between their solution and the outcomes that are important to the customer.  They cannot leave making the connections to the customer because sometimes the customer will and sometimes they will not make the connections.

Major account sales occur in a dynamic business environment with multiple players, long buying process, and complex solutions.  In this market everybody gets it.  You can’t win by just pitching products; you have to sell value. The good news is most major account reps are pretty good at it.  The bad news is most major account reps are pretty good at it – so you have to be great to differentiate yourself from the competition.

To differentiate yourself from competitors, you need to know second-level product knowledge and acquire an in-depth awareness and understanding of the customer’s challenges and issues.

Let’s look at both, starting with product knowledge.

  • Second-level product knowledge refers to the application product knowledge relative to the customer’s business challenges. How do your products individually or collectively solve the problems likely to be encountered by your customer base?  How do they impact productivity, risk, expense and revenue?  Can you relate a customer story or describe the research that demonstrates your product does what you say it does?  And can you fine-tune these narratives based on whether you are talking with a Marketing Manager or Engineer or Chief Information Officer?
  • What about customer knowledge? Today, customers expect salespeople to know more their company and industry than ever before. They expect the sales rep to provide new ideas, imagination, and insights to: manufacture products more quickly, improve product quality, shorten order times, or improve the customer service experience.

Global competition and advanced manufacturing technologies have made it increasingly more difficult to sustain a competitive advantage by product alone.  To win, you need to sell value and the bar for what it takes to sell value has been raised.

This means salespeople must come to the first sales call with a general understanding of the type of issues and challenges their customer is facing, along with an understanding of the customer’s industry.  Then the salesperson can  focus on gaining an in-depth understanding of the business impact of the problems vs. an initial “discover your needs” discussion.

Last, most companies in the major account market space have a wide range of capabilities. Unfortunately, customers often are not aware of the breadth of what you offering. Their knowledge of your capabilities are limited to the products or services they are currently using.

In the end, the total value you can bring and how you are different than the competition can only be seen when customers make the link between the total capability of your company and their mission, priorities, and challenges.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum®


About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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3 Responses to Selling value – great is the new black – An STC Classic

  1. brian MacIver says:

    Its a great article Janet, and the division between level one and level two product knowledge is crucial. I would like to build on it just a little.

    Beyond level two, there is a higher level, this is not based on ‘differentiating’ from your Competitor, or showing ‘extra’ capability. It is simply ‘integrating’ with your Customer “their mission, priorities, and challenges”,

    Again, thanks for highlighting a Key Major Accounts issue.

    You become a fundamental part of their Revenue Generation Process. The boundary is unclear, where you end and they begin is blurred. Both of you are essential for their process.

  2. Scott Warner says:

    Janet, very useful article, and I agree. The challenge I see is that many sales people do not have the inherent knowledge of the day to day challenges and problems their customers have. That means sales people struggle at being able to convey how their products solve their customer’s problems. So, 2 things to note from that.

    1) The selling story can’t be left up to the sales people to create on their own. It must be developed for them along with their collaboration on customer success stories. In the process, the sales reps need to be educated on what their customer’s common problems are.

    2) People who come from the functional / operational part of the business are the best candidates to be able sell value to the customer. That’s because they do understand the daily challenges and problems their customers face. They know what is of value to the customer.

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