Often misunderstood, modern selling is not a straightforward, closing-deals-in-one-meeting thing. Selling with the Buyer’s Perspective requires you to create value for multiple levels of an organization; hence, this needs a well-thought-through plan. Despite having the right intentions, some salespeople struggle with creating the right plan. They get stuck somewhere and do not move up to a value creation where an organization is convinced to take action and make a drastic change. Why is that so? Well, when creating different values, you can expect different outcomes. Your plan needs to get the interest of the right people about the right type of value.
The Creating Value Pyramid
Before revealing the Creating Value Pyramid, consider a simple pyramid representing how most companies are structured. At the Operational Level, people do or produce things. At the Management Level, managers lead the daily operations, drive the company’s priorities and deliver the business results. At the top level are the Executives responsible for setting the vision, goals and strategies. As you read this post, ask yourself, for whom are you creating value, and is your value offering compelling enough to drive a change?
Level 1: Creating Product Value
Selling and replacing your competitor through people working at Operations is not easy. Why? Well, simply because your competitor provides them with very similar products. Your product by itself isn’t differentiated enough to motivate them to champion a change and get Management involved. Your contacts at the Operational level are essential, though. They give their managers feedback on your and competitors’ products; they can also get you in contact with the Management level.
Level 2: Creating Service Value
What about the services you offer, would you ask? They do differ from the competitor, right? Well, yes, they may be. Your competitor, however, also provides some services that you do not. There are similarities, but they are not the same. From the buyer’s perspective, you are not as different as you think. As a result, at this level, you often compete on personal preferences. Companies continuously innovate new services for their customers, but on their own, they are rarely compelling enough to kick-start the Buying Clock.
Still, at the operational level, stakeholders not directly using your products and services may influence change decisions. Consider accounting people processing invoices or IT stakeholders responsible for the online purchasing processes. These stakeholders influence their managers because they see product and service gaps that prevent them from achieving their objectives. The hard truth is that change is difficult, so the first thing managers do is to talk to the current supplier. Management always prefers a fix over a change.
Level 3: Creating Experience Value
You are moving up to a level of value creation that might attract Management’s attention. Improving Customer Experience (CX) can be an excellent value creator that managers see as a way to differentiate from their competitors. The more you share research articles and customer stories around this value, the more you increase your chances to move your stakeholder from a Why Change? to Change to What? Phase of their buying process. I recommend reading Tiffiny Bova’s book ‘ Growth IQ‘ for more insights about CX.
Transition Level: Creating Business Outcomes Value
You are now entering the crucial transition phase, becoming the differentiator. The customer conversation is now about creating the need for a better business outcome for your customer. But here’s the thing – and that’s why I call this a transition phase – the customer conversation can go two ways. Management perceives you either as a well-qualified supporting sales executive or you are moving up in their credibility tree as someone who provides advice. The difference lies in how well you use your business acumen and situational knowledge. Without a solid business case for change, all created values will still end up in a spreadsheet compared to your competitor’s spreadsheet. You need to inspire and motivate stakeholders at the Management level so that with your insights and business ideas, a better business outcome is possible.
Level 5: Creating Strategic Advantage Value
The business acumen and situational knowledge allow you to create a strategic level of value. Executives are interested in this. To reach them, you have enabled your Change Champion at the Management level with research articles, customer stories, and the business case for change. They feel empowered enough to get the Executive level to your meeting. You can explain why they are struggling to produce better results. You share the risks of not changing. And you use language that Senior Management understands. You come with “advice” for a better future and a long-term competitive advantage.
Level 5: Creating ROI Value
In the end, decisions need to be made. Executives want to see what their investment is worth. They may get Procurement involved. You find yourself now on a whole other level. I advise not to see Procurement as part of the problem but as part of the solution. They are expected to report to senior management with advice and the best recommendations. They must justify their preference, including the benefits and risks of choice. But also the risk of progressing with alternative options. They will look at the greatest return on investment. And that is the highest value that you create.
Start at the bottom or start at the top?
This is often a question I hear from participants in our sales training. Anthony Iannarino provides excellent advice and insights into this question in his book “Eat Their Lunch“.
“Executing a competitive displacement isn’t easy, and it requires that you create value at different levels for different stakeholders”.Anthony Iannarino
He recommends engaging as soon as you can on the advisory levels. You don’t want to come across as someone who is pitching your products and services. Being equipped with research and business ideas increases your chances of changing the customer’s perspective. Find Change Champions who believe in your ideas. They can be at the Operational level, but most likely, they need to be at the Management Level. Understand your position in the Creating Value Pyramid and work your way to the advisory side.
Finally, reflect on your recent customer meetings and answer: is your value offering compelling enough to drive a change?