If I had a dollar for every time I heard or read about the importance of delivering value to the customer, I would be retired by now.. Customer value is a popular topic that gets talked about a great deal, more often than it plays out in sales. The only antidote is a framework to ensure outside-in thinking.
How Customer Value Gets Lost
I doubt most sellers ignore customer value intentionally. Several things happen that make us lose sight of the customer’s needs. Some are no surprise; quarter end pressure, sales management breathing down a rep’s neck, and an overriding desire to win are top of the list. These are the reasons people think sales reps don’t have good intentions—they feel pushed into a corner and manipulated.
But besides those less-than-noble reasons to forget customer value, there is also the overwhelming belief that we, the seller, know best. We think we understand the use cases better than those who are living them. We’ve heard just enough about them to believe that we can sell to them regardless of what they believe. We just know and they need to find out (and will) if they just buy from us already! This is why they think, usually correctly, that we don’t listen. This is a very common problem even for sales reps that have the right intentions.
Making Customer Value Real
“Good intentions but a bad outcome,” are the problem we need to confront if we want to seriously deliver value to the customer. Poor attention to customer value arises from a lack of outside in thinking that would help us to be in their shoes rather than in our own heads. It happens naturally as we spend so much time talking about ourselves and we begin to believe our own hype and to forget where they’re coming from. We ask little and talk a great deal.
Turning this problem around involves more than simply realizing we do it. It takes a mental framework, much like everything else that we want to do well. Any good framework requires repeatability and creates the consistency that is the hallmark of doing things the right way. In the cast of driving customer value, the framework has to start with genuine curiosity about the customer’s current situation and has to focus on the pain they need to resolve or the objective they need to reach. There’s no room for talking about solutions, especially ours, when we don’t know enough about why they would even consider buying from us.
Connect The Dots
Once we know the situation they face, either goal or pain, we need to work with the customer to create the logical connections between what they consider a valuable outcome and what we can do for them. This mapping requires patience to first figure out everything necessary for ensuring value and takes discipline on the part of a seller. If that sounds difficult, it is. Being great at what you do is rarely easy but is connected to having the discipline of a customer-facing, value-enforcing framework.
Create your mental framework for ensuring customer value. There’s really no other way.