What is a sales person’s value proposition? This very interesting question was posed recently on LinkedIn. The questioner asked: Is it Product Knowledge? Is It Customer Relationship? Is it Negotiation or Communications Skills? In this era of Web 2.0 – where buyers are better informed and demanding and have direct access to vendors and in an environment where businesses are reducing sales & marketing costs, what is the reason companies will continue to rely on sales people over other means to deliver sales?
Everyone who answered this question mentioned relationship building and communication as being key for sales people but I don’t think that’s enough without the ability to really listen, really hear what you’re being told and to be creative with what you’ve heard. This is always the starting point to building your value proposition as this is the customer experience part of the process,
As we become even more polarised from transactional selling (where the buyer knows what they want) to consultative selling (where they don’t know what they want), the merits of a good consultative sales person become clearer and clearer.
A good consultative sales person will translate what they’ve heard into some in-the-moment innovation crafting and keep offering this back and forward with the client until they have a starting point of a solution. I deliberately chose the words innovation crafting rather than solution crafting for consultative selling as it must be co-created with the buyer rather than a fixed solution the sales person has in their mind. This needs innate creative ability as well as good listening and relationship skills.
Really listening and building a good relationship over time also means dropping your ego. You may not make the sale today, tomorrow or next month and you may not sell what you wanted to sell, so let that go. In consultative selling the relationship with the buyer over an extended period is key and it can’t be faked, they will see straight through that.
My 8 tips to building a sales person’s value proposition are:
1. Listen, really listen
2. Hear what you’re being told
3. Replay what you think you’ve heard back to your buyer
4. Use your creativity for innovation crafting
5. Drop your ego
6. Build good, real relationships
7. Ask for commitment to you early in the process, but not too early – it’s like dating!
8. Stay for the long game
As we continue to move more and more towards automating transactional (often commodity) sales then I think this aspect of consultative selling for more complex products/services will become even more important. It’ll be one of the few differentiators left.
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