To be truly effective - and to have real impact - your sales people need to be crafting uniquely customised value propositions for each individual prospect (and often each significant stakeholder).
If that sounds like hard work, it is. But here’s why it is worth it…
Your prospects are tired of generic value propositions that do not relate to their specific current situation and priorities. They filter them out. And even if they appear to be in the meeting, their mind is probably somewhere else.
Only 1 in 8 sales meetings create any value
It’s one of the man reasons why Forrester found that prospects rated only 1 in 8 of the sales conversations they had with sales people as being in any way useful, or a good way of investing their scarce time.
Think about that fact for a moment: the vast majority of meetings between sales people and their prospects are regarded by the potential customer as a complete and utter waste of their precious time.
It’s no wonder that so many sales “opportunities” end up with the customer deciding to do something else or increasingly to decide to do nothing - driven, no doubt, in part by the depression brought on by so many incompetent, value-less sales conversations.
Throwing mud (or worse) at the wall...
If you’re in a simple, transactional sales environment, your sales people might be able to get away with communicating the same standard value proposition. After all, if they talk about it often enough to enough people, some of it is bound to stick, right?
But if you’re in a complex, consultative sales process in a considered purchase buying environment with multiple stakeholders, communicating a standard generic value proposition isn’t going to get you anywhere…
… apart, that is, from an invitation to go and bore somebody else instead (but please don’t tell them I sent you).
Sophisticated buyers expect you to create value
You see, faced with an increasingly educated and informed prospect community, simply communicating your generic value isn’t enough: you need to co-create specific value with the prospect in a way that reflects the issues that are most important to them.
This shift from communicating value to creating it is one of the most profound differences between transactional and consultative selling. Some currently successful transactional sales people are simply not equipped to make the shift.
So if your organisation is determined to make the transition from a transactional to a consultative sales environment, it’s probably best to keep those sales people focused on the sort of selling they have proved they can do well.
A very different set of sales skills...
But the sales people you assign to consultative buying situations need to do better. They need to co-create unique and relevant value with their prospect, and this requires a very different set of sales skills (and a different management approach).
Value creation depends on the ability to truly understand the prospect’s situation and what they are trying to achieve. It involves creating a gap between their aspirations and their current actuality. It requires an ability to adapt and tune a generic value message so that it addresses the prospect’s particular priorities.
And it doesn’t stop there: given that most complex, high-value buying decisions involved multiple stakeholders, it requires the ability to anticipate and address the concerns and motivations of all the key players in the prospect’s buying decision process.
Satisfying the "WIIFM" test...
In short, you need to answer the unspoken “what’s in it for me, my department and the company?” question that is going to be on the lips of every significant stakeholder. This is a significant challenge.
It’s why, according to research conducted by the CEB and published in “The Challenger Sale”, the performance gap between average and top sales performers is three times wider in complex sales environments compared to transactional ones.
This stuff is hard to master. Not every sales person will succeed. The costs of failure are significant. That’s why it’s so important to assess sales people for their cognitive skills, and for their ability (as the CEB describe it) to teach, tailor and tale control of each sales situation.
Assessing sales skills
There’s a role for sales people who are good at consistently communicating the value of their company’s products - and it’s typically in repetitive, standardised transactional sales.
But in complex, consultative sales environments, you had better be sure that your sales people are capable of communicating a uniquely tailored value proposition for each separate customer and stakeholder.
And if they’re not, you either need to move them into a role better suited to their talents, or brace yourselves for some pretty disappointing sales results.