How can anyone sell value without values?

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I recently participated in a webinar with LeveragePoint on the subject of “establishing a value-centric culture in your B2B sales organisation”. It’s a topic I care deeply about, and I’ve included a link to both the recording and the deck at the bottom of this article.

I thought you might find it worthwhile if I summarise some of my conclusions, and to try to explain why I believe that we cannot successfully claim to “sell value” without demonstrating the necessary values...

What is “value”?

The dictionary defines “value” as “the importance or worth of something” to which I’ll add “for an individual, stakeholder group or organisation”. In other words, value can relate to one person, a group of people or an entire organisation - and the specific perception of what is and is not valuable can of course vary across these different audiences.

As salespeople, of course we need to ensure that our value proposition is relevant to all. This will often require that we take a nuanced approach to communicating value rather than taking a monolithic “one size fits all” approach, customising the story for each audience without losing the overall theme.

What are “values”?

But if we are to successfully and consistently sell value, I believe that we need to do so on a foundation of values. “Values” - from my perspective - reflect the principles, attitudes or behaviours of an individual, stakeholder group or organisation.

And from an organisational perspective, values come from the top. Leadership sets the principles, standards, attitudes, and behaviours for the company as a whole. And they do so with their actions, and not just their words. The various stakeholder groups, departments and functions do the same for their members. And every individual’s values are influenced by the impressions created by their colleagues, managers, and leaders.

Honesty and integrity

There are many important values, but perhaps none are as foundational in their nature and impact as honesty and integrity. There’s a fundamental principle at play here: organisations (and the people who work for and represent them) need to be honest with themselves before they can be expected to be honest with others.

This is as true in business as it is in politics: sooner or later, liars get caught out. And once the untruth genie is out of the bottle, it’s impossible to put it back. Any acceptance of dishonesty at any level is corrosive. In part, this means always saying what people need to hear and not what you or they want to hear.

It means creating an environment where truth can be spoken to power without fear of the consequences. It means encouraging self-honesty and it means challenging untruths, half-truths and lazy claims or assumptions that are not supported by the facts. I expand on this in the webinar.

And - as I’ve mentioned - it means being judged by your actions and not by your words. Your organisation’s values and ethics don’t come from a mission statement or a code of conduct - they come from the actions that every member of the organisation takes on a daily basis.

Recruiting people with the right values

I hope that anybody with any practical experience of hiring will acknowledge that skills and experience can be developed - but that ingrained attitudes, beliefs and behaviours are far harder to change. I hope that you also recognise that attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours are the foundations upon which skills and experience can be built. Trying to successfully train or develop people who don’t have the appropriate mindset is a usually a frustratingly difficult challenge.

Hiring mistakes are particularly expensive when it comes to the sales function, given the wasted costs and lost revenues that follow as an inevitable consequence. So why do so many hiring decisions place so much stress on the applicant’s apparent experience, rather than their mindset? Hiring people who have values that are inconsistent with the organisation they are joining makes no sense at all!

Having a robust, evidence-based evaluation process that explores how people actually think and behave and not just what they claim to have achieved (such as that provided by the Objective Management Group) is, to my mind - critical - and I explore this in more detail in the webinar.

Converting potential into performance

Even if you succeed in hiring people with the right combination of experience and values, you still need to convert their potential into actual performance. Of course, you’ll want to train them on your organisation’s offerings, but that’s never enough. How you induct your new hires has a direct impact on their subsequent success.

This typically involves extensive individual coaching and sharing the best practices and behaviours of your existing “role model” salespeople, with a focus on desired outcomes and not just activities. It also requires a culture of collective learning, in which every salesperson, no matter how long or short their tenure, contributes and shares their experiences (both good and bad) with their peers to everyone’s mutual benefit.

The link with outcomes

Returning to the subject of value, you need to ensure that your salespeople’s perception of value is aligned with that of your customers. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. All too often, the average salesperson and sales organisation thinks terms of the projected value of their so-called “solution”, based on predicted ROI, payback period and so on. Unfortunately, this projected value is frequently forgotten, abandoned, or ignored once the sale has been closed.

What the typical customer actually thinks and believes about value is different: they tend to think in terms of the actual value that they derive after implementing the solution - i.e., their outcomes. In the customer’s world, value is based on real-world efficiency, effectiveness, and financial metrics - and this real-world value is critical to their decision to continue to use, to renew and to expand the “solution”.

The CARE flywheel

CARE Cycle x 300That’s why the CARE flywheel is so important. This is will be covered in a separate article - probably a series of articles - but in summary, the four components of the CARE flywheel are:

Commit

  • Understanding and shaping the customer’s desired outcomes
  • Facilitate the customer’s buying decision buying journey
  • Securing the customer’s commitment to proceed

Adopt

  • Implementing the selected solution
  • Ensuring user acceptance and adoption
  • Achieving the customer’s desired outcomes

Renew

  • Maximising user adoption
  • Ensuring value is fully recognised
  • Securing the customer’s commitment to renew

Expand

  • Continuing to widen usage
  • Seeking out new projects
  • Securing the customer’s commitment to expand

Learn more

I hope this summary has stimulated you to want to watch the whole webinar, which you can see here, or to download the slides, which you can do here.

Please drop me a line and let me know what you think - or even better, book a call.

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