During periods characterised by insecurity the general attitude towards salespeople changes. In addition, customers’ focus shifts to short-term solutions and the reduction of risk. Both constitute an opportunity for enterprises and salespeople who manage to adapt to this situation quickly. Adding value while responding to this situation and at the same time focussing on enhancing customer confidence.  

There are four elements that play a role in creating value for the customer:  

  • How can we improve our insight into the customer’s situation?  
  • What are the techniques we can use?  
  • How can we keep all conversations relevant?  
  • How can we ensure that customers are prepared to pay for it?  

In this respect it’s important to have a good insight into the customers’ “Buyer Journey”.  

Waarde creëren in tijden van grote onzekerheid

A few important things to take into account:  

  • A late entry in the buying cycle does not provide much room for value creation, as the customer already knows what he wants and has a preferred supplier with whom he compares other suppliers 
  • If you enter the cycle before the trigger moment, your chances of success are much better.  Nevertheless, your focus should be on messages that increase the willingness to change, i.e. messages that break through the status quo and the “loyalty loop”.  
  • As a salesperson, you must be able to guide the customer through his buying cycle by aligning the activities and messages to what is important to him.  

When you have contact with a customer, you can find out where he is in the buying cycle by asking a few questions. It’s not possible to reverse the cycle. If the customer is already at the end of the cycle, you need very strong conversation techniques to create an opening. Unfortunately, the consequence is that the price is a very important factor, unless you are lucky enough that others before you have made a significant mistake.  

The value wedge combined with the phase in the buying cycle indicate how the added value can be created.  

value wedge

First let’s discuss the typical pitfalls and mistakes that are made on the basis of the value wedge.  The salesperson:  

  1. doesn’t distinguish himself from the competition, just tells the same story 
  1. tries to convince the customer with strong points of the competition that are not at all strong points of his own offer, as it is clear how important they are to the customer.  
  1. is too focused on outdoing the competition by focusing on strong points they both have but that are not relevant for the customer 
  1. fails completely by presenting entirely irrelevant advantages and messages on the basis of his own convictions or non-identical situations, causing irreparable damage to customer confidence.  

If the right conversations take place in line with the specific phase in the buying cycle, the essential confidence will be built quickly, and the critical insights will be acquired that enable the salesperson to focus on the messages that are important to the customer and that the competition overlooked.  

A few “must-do’s” during conversations:  

  • Tell a clear story about similar situations and thus quickly build confidence for the next steps.  
  • Use the right interview and conversation techniques to not only have full knowledge of the situation but also to quantify. This will have a major impact on the price the customer is willing to pay.  
  • Once preparations are complete, your first contact in the active sales cycle is preferably the person who is exposed to the most disadvantages and at the same time has the highest decision-making power. This way you structurally increase your chances of quickly breaking through the status quo.  
  • Ask closed questions to validate your assumptions and monitor your rapport with the person concerned.  
  • Provide a solid underpinning for a possible change, so as to make it easier to minimise discounts and therefore to sell at a higher price than the competition. 

Do you want to know more about these essential elements?  

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About Pascal Persyn

Pascal supports organisations in delivering commercial excellence in the areas of Sales Enablement, Content Strategy and Buyer Journey Enablement. His pet projects are about helping companies overcome challenges due to the empowered customer and thus evolving into buyer-aligned organisations. His executive experience in private, VC-backed and public companies enables doing the right thing at the right time with the right people. Don’t hesitate to contact Pascal for expert advice: pascal@perpetos.com