Value based selling is the act of prioritizing the customer’s needs over those of the sales professional. That is, a value based approach to selling refrains from the practice of pushing a solution at every stage of the buying process. Instead, value based selling seeks to bring meaningful value to customers without directly positioning the solution.
This approach is counterintuitive. Sales professionals have a quota to fulfill. Therefore, a value based approach in which the customer’s needs come first, can appear to slow the momentum of the sale because serving the customer does not always mean advocating for the value of various products and services. However, the long-term benefits are considerable because this style of selling seeks to develop the customer’s trust in the sales professional first then in the solution.
While effective, value based selling is challenging to enact because there is a natural tendency in any sales conversation to push the product. Therefore, it is helpful for sales professionals to commit to three principles underpinning the definition of value based selling.
Value Based Selling Focuses More on Needs Than Solutions
A key principle of value based selling is that the customer’s needs must be fully understood in order to properly position a solution later. Doing so can only happen by asking questions that delve deep into the customer’s underlying needs. Too often sales professional are in a race to close. This urgency is understandable given the requirements placed on sales professionals. However, it is more effective to first get the full dimensions of the customer’s situation so that the positioning language is more resonant later.
Learning the customer’s needs serves another purpose, it enables the sales professional to incrementally bring value in the form of insights and information connecting directly to their goals and challenges. This method establishes trust because the customer benefits from a sales approach that is not self-serving. For example, a sales professional might provide valuable industry data, analytics, and trend reports that illuminate the landscape in a way that does not yet require the customer to buy into the value proposition of the solution.
A focus on needs often helps the customer as much as it helps the sales professional. By listening to questions and then providing answers the customer is participating in an act of discovery. They are thinking critically about the nature of their needs and they become more articulate about what is really important to their business.
Value Based Selling Delivers Only What is Relevant
Products and services today boast an array of features and benefits. Value based selling chooses only to illustrate those aspects of the solution that are relevant to the customer’s unique situation. Committing to this style is more difficult than it sounds. In some cases, the competitive advantage of a solution is a feature that simply is not relevant to the customer. In this scenario, the sales professional will need to work harder to find the path to the sale by ensuring that every insight and idea they offer is relevant to the customer’s situation.
Some sales professionals adhere to this approach by ensuring that every idea they float answers the question, “so what?” If they restrict their statements to only those that can answer the “so what” question they will automatically deliver an experience that is customized to the stakeholders. This method underscores the importance of front-loading the sales dialogue with questions. It is difficult to know if an idea will be relevant to a customer without first knowing what is important to the decision-makers. Relevancy is a way to build trust because it demonstrates that the sales professional is always thinking and speaking with the customer’s interests in mind.
Value Based Selling Makes the Buying Process Educational
With value based selling the buying decision is more than a transaction or sales pitch, it is a journey in which the customer learns how to achieve their goals. The sales process is educational for the customer because the sales professional is guiding them through the problem solving required to make a decision.
This is where an agile approach is helpful. A sales professional that can navigate change is at an advantage in a setting where customer needs are more complex than ever. The benefit of an agile approach is that it helps the customer clarify their needs while delivering a customer-centric experience. This emphasis on the customer is important because closeness with the stakeholders is “a more vital performance driver” according to research from the International Journal of Research in Marketing, which analyzed 141 companies across ten industries.
Value based selling helps the customer understand that they are not part of a by-the-numbers sales and marketing approach. Instead, the potential customer begins to see the sales rep as an advisor. In the most successful engagements, the sales professional is even seen as an extension of the stakeholder team. Their business acumen and insight are a welcomed part of the process.
Value based sales help to build a client base by delivering more than a solution. With this approach the customer’s needs are understood, the ideas discussed are relevant, and the process is enlightening. The act of selling becomes an act of collaboration in which interactions and insights are prioritized above product pitching and transactions.