Today many sales experts — those who deliver those motivational sales keynotes — write and speak about how salespeople create value. This is 100% rubbish and let me explain why.
This past week I interviewed five top-performing women for the 2016 Second Annual Women in Sales Awards. I asked all five if they believe salespeople create value. Four responded with “Absolutely!”
What was interesting to note as all explained their beliefs, not one of them used the word create. Instead, they all used the word connect. Each of them explained how sellers must connect to the buyer’s value drivers. Even these high-performing salespeople have a lack of clarity when it comes to this particular word.
Only one of these top-performing saleswomen expressed doubt that salespeople could create value. She then provided a detailed explanation about how to connect to the buyer’s value drivers. This explanation delved into pre-sales research along with active listening during the actual sales meeting. She said she listens to what is driving the decision to make a purchase and then aligns her responses to those drivers. She also shared that all buyers are unique — and therefore so are their value drivers.
With nearly 40 years of sales experience, I have been advocating that value creation is a fallacy sold for salespeople to buy more books or attend more paid seminars. Value is unique to each buyer and each buyer prioritizes their value drivers differently depending upon what is happening to them, their operations or what is within their strategic business plan.
For example, when I was in corporate sales back in the 1970s, I had male tradesmen (existing customers) tell me they did not want to speak to a woman. This was one of their value drivers. Now I could have insisted they had no choice but to speak to me, given some real good reasons why they should speak with me, but that would have only alienated these loyal customers. My solution was to politely say “Okay, let me get you my boss, Ed.”
Then usually within a few minutes, I would hear my phone ring. My boss sent the person back to me. The male tradesman would say something like “Ed says you know more than he does.” My response was “How may I help you?” Never did I make the individual feel foolish for not wanting to talk to me as that would be counterproductive, nor did I ever become upset due to “gender insensitivity” or “gender bias.” I realized and respected his value driver.
Having been in industrial sales for over 20 plus years, my early encounters convinced me value was unique to each customer. One customer might want a quicker delivery while another might want only products made in America. Some buyers would buy on the minimum specifications due to pricing.
The other caveat within this fallacy of value creation is one of ego. When salespeople believe they create value, they may miss sales opportunities because they are already on the “been there, done that, know what is better for you path.”
To create means to bring into existence. Maybe it’s me, but I do not have the power to bring value into existence. What I can do is to discern what the value drivers are for each buyer and then connect to those value drivers through our sales conversations and ultimately dialogues.