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Another Opinion About Selling In This Economy

Read McKinsey’s recent article, The downturn’s new rules for marketers (registration required).

I was pleasantly surprised to see some sound advice about sales organization function and structure in the article.   The real meat for those of us on the sales side is near the end of the piece, beginning with, “Reprioritizing sales function.”

There is no shortage of advice about selling during this recession floating around the Internet these days.  What ESR’s clients are more interested in is not quick sales tips, but alternatives for territory coverage, resourcing, sales organization structure, and value proposition relevancy.

What concerns me is that many sales leaders in trouble will jump at any idea.  Some of those I speak with are doing exactly that.  The McKinsey article will hopefully convince you to assess your situation carefully first.  A strategy that can help one company reduce a projected revenue shortfall by 10 or 15% may make things considerably worse for another.

Your sales people need direction, motivation and firm leadership (among other things).  There couldn’t be a worse time than now for the ready, fire, aim approach.

Graphic credit: © Adrian Hillman – Fotolia.com

Value-isms

I came upon a post by Jeff Thull yesterday.  Jeff is the author of three best-selling sales books and founder of Prime Resource Group, one of the vendors that ESR covers.

Through the success of his clients, Jeff has proven his approach to selling business value works.  (Not every company is a candidate for deploying Jeff’s approach.)

In the post, Jeff bashes the term, and the concept of, “value proposition.”  He suggests another term, “value assumption,” which describes a process of collaboration between seller and buyer to determine where value from a product or service will be applied and realized with respect to that individual customer’s business.

I commented on the post:

In my experience, the term “value proposition” is subject to wide varieties of interpretation. Some salespeople use the term in a very general way: “Our value proposition is to provide manufacturers automation that will reduce cost and improve product quality.” If that’s the extent of their understanding of value, they aren’t going to get very far. I expect you’d agree.

For others “value proposition” is the end product of your “value assumption” process, where, through active collaboration with the client, it is determined precisely what the value is, where it will impact the client’s business, and by how much. You’re right on target about what has to be accomplished and the questions that need to be asked and answered to establish that definition of “value proposition.”

Many whose end goal of presenting a “value proposition” through your “value assumption” process use other more generic terms (such as “value statement”) to provoke interest, leading to an in-depth conversation with a prospective client. Using examples of how they worked with executives of companies that the prospect would recognize, and posing thoughtful, compelling questions, is a proven way to get that job done. It is selling. That’s what professional salespeople do.

With all that being said, I agree with you that few salespeople employ the “value assumption” process, regardless of what you or I might call it. You have definitely raised an area where significant differentiation can be provided.

I see Jeff’s point and I agree with the process.  Few salespeople take their customers through this or a similar process.  Many throw value-isms at customers to see what sticks.  It’s painful to watch.  And, when a customer sees a person selling, Jeff writes, “whatever value you suggest it is, the customer is likely to reduce its value because they will assume it is likely exaggerated to make the sale.”

I just don’t see the “value assumption” approach as anything particularly new.  If someone finally got the majority of B2B salespeople to sell that way—now that would be new.   Jeff has been on that quest.