Value Selling - Two New Challenges

12 February 2019 by Charles Howden

I smiled when the Harvard Business Review (HBR) included this link in their daily newsletter to me on Sunday 10/02/19 (well OK, I suspect they sent it to other people too). I smiled because this article (first posted in 2006) fed my early interest in Value Selling and supported my (then) academic research into Customer Perceptions of Value (CPV) which was central to my MBA dissertation.

Since completing my MBA research, and with support from academics and sector experts, I went on to develop the Value Mapping tool that we, at CPV Consulting, have taken into the business world to help business leaders and sales teams make Value Selling a reality. From that, came a suite of sales training tools for sellers at the sharp end of the value discussion.

Reading through the HBR article again (I hope you can open the link) I was surprised at how little has changed from the selling perspective over the last twelve years. What I think has changed the most, is how buyers operate, and our understanding from a selling perspective of how sellers should engage and communicate Value, through each stage of the buyer’s journey.

Our thinking has moved on a little since three and a half years ago when I posted this “Is this the end of Sales Process” “Though I think it still relevant to sales delivery today, and introduces the importance of Buyer Process in the sales engagement.

More recently, two new Value Selling challenges are now constantly on our radar.

Sales Challenge One – Increasing Customer Value Perception in the Transactional Sale
Perhaps the most recognisable change in Value selling through the last ten years has been how the availability of information to buyers is preventing sellers from becoming engaged until later in the Buyer Process. Later stage, highly informed buyers require a more Transactional Selling approach which Consultative Sellers are often unprepared for.
Standard Transactional Selling practice is based on Presenting/Pitching and Closing, with as little time spent between the two activities as possible. Opening up the customer’s perception of value, aside from price discounting or giving away additional services, is generally not part of the standard game plan, and one that requires sellers to have a deep understanding of how their Value Proposition creates value.

Sales Challenge Two – Aligning the Sales Model, with the Buyer Stage
Well-informed buyers, at the end of their own research, product/service evaluation stage, do not appreciate a question-led Consultative Selling approach (our thanks to Hubspot research for bearing this out). Less-informed, early-awareness stage buyers, at the other end of their Buyer Process, are usually open to being carefully led by sellers into their unrecognised problem states using Consultative Selling practise. Aligning the Sales Model with the Prospects Buyer Stage determines how sellers should communicate value.

We are developing our own answers to these challenges and are adressing them through our Value Selling workshops. You may have established your own processes to address these?

And the HBR’s Newsletter reminding me of the classic “Value Merchants: Demonstrating and Documenting Superior Value in Business Markets” from James C. Anderson, Nirmalya Kumar, and James A. Narus, is still a top read, and was open in my Kindle when HBR sent me their email on Sunday. Serendipity? Pretty close, I’d say.

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