Jeff Thull is the author of Mastering the Complex Sale: How To Compete and Win When the Stakes are High!
, which appears on the Selling Power list of Best Books for Sales Success in 2013. In this exclusive Q&A, Thull shares some of his expert advice for sales managers.
Selling Power (SP): Where does value come from in selling? Does it come from the seller, the product or solution, or both?
Jeff Thull: I define value as net profit to your customer. Your products and/or your services are vehicles for value. When they enable your customers to create value for themselves, then both sides win.
SP: Where do disconnects exist between value and perceived value?
Thull: Traditionally, marketers and sellers have described value in terms of the product or solution attributes and generalized customer impact. They've expected the customer to translate that product value into business value.
For example, take the drug Lipitor. This is a cholesterol-reducing drug. If a salesperson presents Lipitor as something I should buy because its value is in reducing cholesterol, I have every right to be hesitant or even disagree. By itself, Lipitor can reduce cholesterol, but the reduction of cholesterol – the value of the product – occurs only within my body. As the customer, I must decide what represents value to me, and each of those decisions is a point where a disconnect or disagreement can occur.
Before I can benefit from the value the solution –Lipitor – offers, I have to agree that 1) I have an elevated cholesterol level, 2) elevated cholesterol levels have consequences, and 3) I want to avoid those consequences soon. Then I must decide to make the purchase. Finally, I implement the solution, which is to religiously take Lipitor each day).
SP: How can sales professionals create value?
Thull: Sales professionals must become translators of value. For example, my doctor guides me through medical risks and decisions, and my CPA guides me through financial risks and decisions. If you try to rush me or cause me to skip steps, we both may lose. If I am confused or uncertain of any of these elements, you won't get the sale and I won't receive the value impact. Be a guide and advisor to customers, and connect your solution to specific evidence, specific measurements that will confirm the financial risk your customer is facing in the absence of your solution.
SP: What trends do you see for sales management in 2013?
Thull: Progressive leaders are moving away from training that equips their sales professionals to only present the value of their products and services and toward learning programs that equip their sales professionals to understand the business of their customers. To be advisors, today's sales professionals must understand how their customers make money and how the absence of their solution affects their customer's ability to meet business objectives. Consider that 75 percent of a doctor's education is about the workings of the human body, and only 25 percent is about the solution. Their concern is making an accurate diagnosis in order to prescribe the right solution. Similarly, the role of sales management today is leading, equipping, and coaching a team of business advisors who can effectively diagnose business problems in their customer's complex world.