Value Based Selling is the process of understanding and reinforcing the reasons why your product or service is of value to the buyer. It’s an unfortunate fact that many of today’s B2B sales people are still far more comfortable talking about their products than they are discussing business issues. However the average B2B buyer regards a sales person’s relevant business knowledge as being a lot more valuable than their ability to regurgitate product features, functions and benefits.
If ever there was a place to use value and emotion in selling, it’s with B2B buyers. Why is this? Because the sales process for them takes 22% longer than it did just seven years ago.
Could this mean that today’s buyers are just more indecisive? Not at all. In fact, over 80% of B2B buyers think that everybody is pretty much selling the same thing. The competition is fierce. Let’s be honest – from a buyers perspective all suppliers seem the same. To further complicate matters, buyers know that when they make a purchase decision it will be a long-term commitment.
3 factors predict buyer behavior
A survey of over four thousand B2B buyers uncovered the most important attributes that a sales professional should have in order to be perceived as valuable, i.e. what makes a buyer buy. Here are the top 3 attributes that influence a buyer’s decision:
- How your product will benefit the company (How do you help your prospects achieve their goals, such as getting more customers and making more money?)
- How you can help the buyer (How will this make the individual buyer’s life easier, like improving their productivity levels or making work less stressful?)
- How do you boost the buyer’s self-worth (How are you making them look good to their staff or colleagues? According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we are motivated by the need to look and feel important among peers.)
When trying to make a sale, it’s not all about your product, service, or your proposal; it’s about motivating the buyer. If you act on the three questions above, you will create internal advocates to help sell your products and services for you.
Value-based selling requires appealing to not just the rational side of the buyer, but the emotional side.
Here are 5 important tips for value-based selling:
Tip 1. Remember, it’s not all about price
Data gathered over 15 years at B2B International shows clearly that 80% of business-to-business buyers do not prioritize price. In other words, price-focused salespeople are leaving value on the table in 80% of cases! Even in highly undifferentiated markets such as utilities, less than half of buyers are focused on price. This myth of a price-obsessed market is perpetuated by simplistic B2B sales reps who only know how to sell – or only want to sell – on price.
Tip 2. Address the buyers’ fears
Sales leadership trainer Dale Carnegie says “when dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.” This is why it is important to uncover your prospects greatest fears or pain points in business. Of course you don’t want to terrify your potential customers, however, you can present a fear-inducing challenge that the buyer faces and show how you can help with this problem.
For example, are your prospects worried about their product becoming irrelevant? Share that fear and then show how you’ll alleviate their stress. In a peer-to-peer manner — “Did you know that 65% of IT managers are concerned about X?” Here you are highlighting the managers’ personal responsibility for inefficient processes or system downtime. Then you continue by describing how managers can benefit when they improve their department’s efficiency and financial performance. This is where your product can help. This is where you’re selling value.
If we don’t think about what it takes to overcome that risk from a personal, emotional perspective, then you’re missing where sales people should really be focusing. Ultimately, if you don’t overcome buyers’ fears and you fail to address those risks, then you can pull on the reins all day and the horse still won’t go anywhere.
Tip 3. Be specific about the value you can provide each prospect
Sales and marketing teams often make a great deal of fuss about articulating their company’s “unique value proposition”. But no matter how agonizingly carefully they are crafted, these can only ever be generic statements designed to appeal to your target market as a whole. This is often still one step away from the customer actually seeing the real business value on offer. For example, a specific IT function (feature) might provide “greater speed” (IT benefit), but this doesn’t immediately translate to a tangible business benefit.
Value-based selling requires that you get very specific about the value you offer each prospect – in effect you need a personally tailored unique value position. “This reduced latency would mean that potential customers visiting your website are more likely to stay longer, explore your site and buy from you – in fact from talking with your marketing teams, we agreed that the speed we are proposing could increase your sales by over 20%”.
Rather than a broad description of all that you can offer, you’ll get much more traction by selectively identifying and highlighting the small subset of your total capabilities that are most relevant to successfully addressing the issue you have identified. And you need to clearly explain how you deliver unique and relevant value to every member of the decision-making team.
Tip 4. Sell outcomes, not products
Consumer marketers have long recognized that selling outcomes rather than products and their features is the path to higher sales rate. Companies that used to sell sports shoes now sell dreams of a toned physique and better wellbeing; perfume companies sell romance and sophistication. These outcomes are valued far more by consumers than the actual products that achieve these outcomes.
Despite their protestations, business-to-business customers are similarly looking for outcomes: a buyer of IT equipment might require greater business efficiency; a buyer of recruitment services may actually be looking to buy business growth. Savvy b2b marketers ask themselves and colleagues “What are we really selling?” and build their marketing and sales approaches around these outcomes. Product features may be used to substantiate the outcome that is being sold, but should not form part of the message per se.
Tip 5. Emphasize the personal benefits, not just business benefits
It’s important to remember that personal value has twice the impact on a B2B purchase than business value does.
Personal value matters, and those attributes include the emotions we’ve already talked about, including aspects of confidence, excitement, and happiness. And there are even some social benefits companies should consider, like whether their product might make the buyer more popular with their team, or whether it will allow the buyer to be viewed as a stronger, more successful leader. These are all emotions weighing heavily on buyers in many markets, and reflect an emotional need for reassurance that the seller shares similar values and that the buyer is making the right decision for both their company and themselves.
Ultimately, selling value works because it provides buyers with the understanding that they are making a worthwhile investments with their money. Emotion is a big factor in every life decision, even those in the workplace. Sales reps must be aware of the psychological motivation behind buying new products, or else they’ll run into sales barriers time and time again.