Value-Positive, Value-Neutral, and Value-Negative

The reason we think in terms of value creation is that it is how you create a strong preference for your prospective client to buy from you instead of your competitor. Throughout the B2B sales conversation, you can do and say things that are value positive, improving your chances of winning new business.

You might also do things that are value-negative, reducing your odds and making it more difficult for you to capture a new opportunity. Some things are value-neutral, even though many believe them to be value-positive.

Value-Negative

  • Straight-Pitching: When you start your first meeting by telling your contacts about you, your company, and your solutions to gain creditability, you are creating negative value. Your client’s decision is whether you have the credibility to help them produce better results.
  • Excessive Rapport-Building: It can feel like things are going well when you connect with your contact on a personal level. But too much rapport-building early in sales calls can cause your client to believe that you are wasting their time, and giving them a preview of what it might be like to work with you.
  • Poor Questions: There are a handful of questions that get passed down to salespeople that have been so overused for so long that they create negative value, the most widely recognized being, “What’s keeping you up at night?” Selling is a creative endeavor, and your questions need to be powerful and more illuminating.
  • Weak Discovery: The idea that one needs only to acquire their client’s pain point as the key to winning big deals creates negative value in larger, complex deals. A surface-level understanding and exploration of their challenges and potential solutions don’t move the needle when it comes to creating a preference to work with you.
  • Lack of Insight: At any point in the conversation, if your contacts decide that you have no knowledge that would help them better understand why and how they need to change, your lack of insight-selling creates negative value.
  • Poor Follow-Through: Making and breaking your promises subtracts from any value you might have created. It is hard to trust people with big outcomes when they can’t deliver smaller outcomes.
  • Lack of Customization: A proposal that doesn’t expressly speak to the things that you have changed to make your solution custom-built for your client removes from the overall value necessary for your contacts to prefer to buy from you.
  • A Transactional Approach: An approach that treats an important or strategic decision as something less is one that will deduct from the points you might have scored had you used an approach that recognized the nature of the decision for your contacts.

Value-Neutral

  • Your Company: If there are questions about your company’s stability, this might be a factor. Otherwise, smaller companies beat larger companies every day by outselling them. Mostly, your company is value-neutral.
  • Your Investors and Investments: In Silicon Valley and the tech world, this might score you some points. The fact that you needed private equity may give some pause, knowing that you are working off a model that supposes a profit margin that allows your backer to flip the business, and double their investment will cause some to see this as negative. Most people will see this the same as if you showed them the log of your bank.
  • Sales Collateral: You might have a business card that would rival Patrick Bateman’s. Your four-color glossy sell sheets and brochures may be the envy of the industry. No one is going to prefer to work because you have the prettiest sales collateral.
  • Slide Decks: While the slide deck needs to be professionally designed, you are unlikely to score points for a slick presentation, especially if it doesn’t teach your contacts something they didn’t already know or suspect.
  • Your Existing Clients: You might have some impressive logos in your company’s portfolio. But sharing them without any context doesn’t do anything to benefit your contacts. You would do better to share a single client who had the same challenge as your prospective client and what you learned from helping them.

Value-Positive

  • Modern Sales Approach: You create positive value when you can provide the context for the conversation you are having with your dream client, explaining your theory as to why they might change, the implications of retaining the status quo, and the positive outcomes should they do something different. Explaining and sense-making create a preference.
  • Unbiased Advice: You create a preference to work with you when you provide your prospective client’s stakeholders with advice about what they should do, why they should do it, and how they should go about making the necessary changes to improve their business and results. If you would offer this advice even if they executed it with someone else, you are certain to have created value. Providing sound advice is value-positive.
  • Illuminating Questions: The best questions you can ask in consultative sales will invariably be greeted with the response, “That’s a great question,” an indication that your prompt caused your client to discover something about themselves. The best and most beneficial discovery occurs when both you and your contact gain new insights and ideas.
  • Intimacy: The idea of intimacy is that you care about your contacts and that you are working to understand who they are, what they need, and that this knowledge ensures that you deliver them a solution that is custom-made for them and something they can execute.
  • Control over the Process: For all the talk about insight-based selling or consultative selling, very little of it speaks to the value created by controlling the process. Ensuring your contacts make the commitments and have the conversations necessary to make the right decision not only creates value for them but also creates a preference to work with you, their guide.
  • Helping Build Consensus: If you’ve ever had a client ask you to meet with other people on their team, prepping you for the conversation because they want to buy from you, you have witnessed the power of consensus. Assuming that you need this in every deal and proactively working to help your contacts build consensus is a level of value that will differentiate and define you as a partner.
  • Presence: In the past, right now, and in the future, showing up is going to create massive value and an even greater likelihood of winning big deals when others do everything they can to avoid having to spend time with their prospective clients. It’s easy to work with people who have spent time with you.

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