Earning The Right To Be A Value Creator


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Yesterday, I wrote about Value Creation. One reader raised an interesting point in a discussion on LinkedIn. He said his customers really value his approach in value creation. They saw it as a differentiator and is was important in differentiating himself from others. But he went on to say that he didn’t get the same positive response from new prospects.

This is a great issue, it’s one that impacts anyone who is “Challenging” their prospects. I think the problem is that we have to “earn the right to Challenge or create Value.”

Challenging must have a foundation built on trust. Absent that, it’s arrogance or insensitivity–even though you may be right. Think about it, what’s new about approaching a prospect in a provocative way—ho hum, what’s new! Everyday, customers and prospects are deluged with ever escalating volume (figuratively and literally) of “messages” or “pitches.” They are bombarded with astounding offers and “miracle cures” from people they don’t know.

Think from the customer’s view, “Here’s this person I don’t know, someone who doesn’t know me. They don’t know my business, they don’t know my priorities, they don’t understand what I am trying to achieve. But they already have the answers?!? They are already pushing me about how I need to change my business!”

Customers want to be heard. They want to someone to listen to them, to understand. Absent this Challenging is just another form of pitching–it becomes one size fits all, not an opportunity for the customer. Too often, we see the “Challenger presentation,” it’s the presentation marketing has carefully researched and constructed, the one that sales people have been trained in how to deliver, the one that’s provocative, interesting, but lacks any understanding of the customer. It may be tuned to a “persona,” but customers are not personas, they’re people (Don’t get me wrong, I believe in personas, but they are a starting point, not a destination.)

Customers want to understand your intent. Barriers are high, rightfully so. They’ve experienced too much from sales people just looking for an order. They’ve seen too much “me thinking” from sales people.

Customers want to understand that you “know your stuff.” More importantly, they want to know that you “know their stuff.” They want to know that you really understand their business, that you really understand what they are trying to achieve and why. They want to make sure that you are aligned with that, that you can bring ideas that will help them achieve their goals–or that you have a context in which to get them to think differently.

Customers want to know that you are trustworthy, we have to earn that trust.

Earning the customer’s trust doesn’t take a lot of time. In fact, you start establishing trust through your very first interactions with the customer. (Read my friend Charlie Green’s stuff–it’s fundamental to your success!)

Value Creation is critical! Challenging our customers creates great breakthroughs! However, before we challenge, before we create value, we have to first earn that right.

Have you earned the right?

Is your Sales Process producing results? Do you need to tune and update it? Are your people using the process as effectively as possible? Try our Sales Process Self Assessment, it’s free, email me with your full name and email address, I’ll be glad to send you a copy. Just send the request to: [email protected],

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Dave, why does a rep have to “earn the right” to be a value creator? Why not just create value!

    Also, it seems to me that part of the problem is that reps need to invest more time developing their industry/business acumen, so they can be that trusted advisor everyone says they should be. Just honing sales process skills or learning new tools is not enough.

    And while I know no one has time to blog (too busy working on high-priority deals, of course) or participate on social networks, how will the rep show that he/she has valuable insights, if they don’t spend some time sharing them in a public forum?

    I don’t have any pat answers, and I’m not advocating a blind rush to blog, tweet etc. But customers are changing how the interact and buy, so I think reps need too make some changes, too.

  2. Bob, great comments, you have several different points.

    1. While it may be a little bit of wordsmithing, I think you do have to earn the right in this sense. To many, creating value is synonomous with Challenging/Provocation. Without having established a relationship, without having established some credibility, without having established some level of trust; this can be perceived as arrogant.

    Some of the examples in Challenger Selling reek of this. There are examples of presentations which, in essence say, “We know better than you how to achieve growth (performance improvement, or whatever you want)……” In the opening presentation, this is just wrong (Unfortunately, I know from painful experience).

    I think we must create value in every interchange with the customer, this can be just listening, probing, being genuinely curious. It can be provocative and challening when that is appropriate. But we have to earn our way forward in each interchange, building on what we have done in previous meetings.

    2. You and i are in wild agreement on business acumen. It is inconceivable how one can create value, without understanding the customer’s business, their industry, and their markets. Without this, the sales person has no relevance or credibility with the customer, nor does the sales person deserve it.

    3. I believe social participation is critical to all sales people–I’m not sure whether it’s blogging, participating in discussion forums, or some other form of active engagement. But that active engagement has two outcomes. First, the sales person starts learning more through the interaction–Second, as a result of this social interaction, they have much more credibility when the first meet with the customer. The customer can have a better sense of who they are and what they stand for. So active social engagement is critical for all sales people–I’m just not sure it’s blogging, and would tend to leave the form of engagement to the sales person


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