I sincerely hope, dear readers, that you are responsible for selling a product or service that can actually be impacted by your sales skills. Because selling on price is a losers game.
Commodities and RFPs
Selling on price may be unavoidable if you truly have a commodity product, but even then, prospective customers have to have some way to differentiate you from the other guys who are within pennies of your price. There has to be some reason to choose one supplier over another. And it might be as simple as preferring the way you answered the phone.
Selling to government or other large contractors who work with RFPs is a tricky business too. I’m not talking about those situations here. I’m talking about products and services that really and truly solve a problem that has been clearly defined by YOU and your prospective client together. And in defining that problem and crafting an appropriate solution, you’ve had the opportunity to showcase your expertise and experience, demonstrating first hand why you are worth your asking price. And creating perceived value along the way.
It's All About the Benefits Baby
Selling value is about selling benefits. But those benefits must mean something to your client. Sure, price may be what your client says is most important to him (and sometimes it is!), but I’m sure you’ve heard the maxim of “It can be quality, fast, or cheap. Pick 2.” If he’s really interested in the lowest possible price, he’ll be sacrificing either speed of delivery or quality. In which case your game is all about the numbers and you had better be marketing, marketing, marketing.
To sell on value your job is to dig deeper into your client’s needs. Sure, your client may approach you with a cut and dried specification that you can quote on. But what does she really need? You must be able to tie your solution, whatever it is, to the benefits and business outcomes that are the most crucial to your customer.
Say you are a graphic designer who is approached to quote a rush job for a client’s presentation the following day. How do you provide value? In this situation by completing a quality job (correctly interpreting the client’s communications needs and brand message) and delivering in a nearly impossible turnaround time. Your client is expecting to pay a premium for this service and you should be charging accordingly. You’ve provided value because you’ve met the most pressing need your client had. And you made it easy for your client. Because you’ve demonstrated your capability for understanding requirements quickly and producing a quality product even in time constrained circumstances, chances are this client will ask you to complete more work.
Applying Value to Commodities
But how do you demonstrate value when a prospective client asks you to quote a run of the mill graphic design job that anyone can do? Like a price list?
Even a price list can be the beginning of a long and productive client relationship. Why is this price list important to your customer? This is where you need to understand how your client wants to communicate with his clients. What can you add to that price list that will make his relationship with his clients better? What can you add to your relationship with your client that will make working with you better than another graphic designer? Make it about anything other than price. Make it about the relationship and about the benefits.
But let’s say you’re selling something intangible, like life coaching services. How do you sell the value of that? This one is all about the benefits. With a whole lot of emotion thrown in. What will your client take away from working with you? How will that improve her life? Why might that be important to her? What impact might working with you have on other aspects of her life? What might it cost her to NOT work with you? And most importantly, although often left unsaid, how will she feel if she works with you? If she doesn’t?
Value = Solving the Problem with Benefits
It’s pretty simple really. You need to fully understand your client’s problem. Even when the client may not understand it herself. Then you need to help her solve it in a way that speaks to the benefits that you’ve discovered are most important to her. And you can only do that by asking a lot of the right sorts of questions.