The world of B2B sales has changed fundamentally over the past decade. The reasons are many and various: Globalised markets have created a multitude of suppliers. Buyers are more sophisticated and adept at utilising that multitude of alternatives to reduce your prices. Procurement decisions are made by groups rather than individuals, all of which slows down the whole sales process. And more…
The usual response is to intensify “selling”: more account-management, slicker presentations, involvement of delivery resources and certainly more meetings. The problem with all this is that the customer readily perceives the supplier’s increasing desperation to win the contract and is therefore temped to circus-master even more out of the them. This creates what we call “servant relationships” even before delivery begins.
So what is the alternative? How can we create “partner relationships” rather than “servant relationships” with our customers?
A value-centred approach to B2B sales sets out precisely to do that. Here are some of the key distinctions in value-centred selling:
1. Asking context-questions rather than content-questions. Most experienced sales-people develop an unconscious habit of content questioning
2. Reframing requirements rather than meeting requirements. Time after time, we find that those who successfully win the reframe will go on to win the sale.
3. Focusing attention on choice of approach, rather than choice of you as supplier. The paradox is that the more you genuinely do that, the more authentic and credible you become.
4. Creating solutions with the customer vs. for the customer. By matching the pre-sales effort, you combat the inherent drift towards servant-level relationships.
Drawing on the experience of the sales teams we have worked with, we see three recurring benefits:
a) higher prices that would otherwise be achieved
b) more compelling value-propositions, tailored to customer need, and
c) a more engaged salesforce, who enjoy being partners rather than servants of their customers.