It’s what gets people to move.
That’s mostly the idea behind value selling. With value selling, you can close more deals and get better clients – not to mention earning more commissions and feeling more fulfilled.
So what is value selling and how does it work?
Let’s dive right in!
Table of Contents
- What is Value Selling?
- What Is Value-Added Selling?
- The Value Selling Methodology: 6 Key Principles
- Value Selling Examples
- The Strengths of Value Selling
What is Value Selling?
Value selling is a sales methodology where you focus on the value that your product or service can provide, rather than its features, advantages, or benefits.
In other words, your job as a salesperson is to figure out what each prospect considers “value” to be, then explain how your product can provide it.
In a traditional sales environment, you typically focus on the thing you’re selling.
If you’re selling a car, for example, you might talk about the horsepower, or the energy efficiency, or the safety and reliability, depending on who you’re talking to. You might compare it to last year’s model or highlight all the cool custom features that are available.
But in the value selling methodology, you spin the narrative to focus on the value that the thing is providing. Instead of merely describing the characteristics of this object, you’ll explain how it can add value to your prospect’s life.
You might be tempted to start with the core features and explain how they’re valuable, but there’s a better approach.
Instead, start by understanding your prospects.
What are their biggest priorities? What is their budget? What do they currently use? What would make their lives easier?
The better you know them, the more specifically you’ll be able to pinpoint the value your object can bring.
What Is Value-Added Selling?
Value added selling is just another term for value selling.
You might also hear it called value-based selling, or the value selling framework, or the value selling methodology.
And while there might be some nuances with how these people are using these phrases, for the most part, they all come from the same underlying philosophy.
The Value Selling Methodology: 6 Key Principles
The basic idea of value selling is simple and easy to understand. Let’s take an example.
You pay $15 for a new gadget that saves you 10 minutes when you core a pineapple – and you’re coring 100 pineapples a week. That’s 1,000 minutes of time savings, or 16.6 hours of work. At your hourly rate of $25 per hour, that’s $416 of extra money in your pocket every week – all from this $15 gadget.
Wow. That’s value. You’d be a fool not to buy this gadget, right?
Now unfortunately, the world isn’t usually this clear cut. It’s not clear that the gadget can save you time consistently. It’s not clear how much your time is worth. The gadget is priced in a way that compromises its profitability. There are a million possible variables.
So what’s my point?
My point is a salesperson is the individual who has the power to clear up these variables, lay down a solid argument, and prove that what they’re selling is valuable in some important way.
If you want to be successful with value selling, you need to be familiar with these key principles.
1. Find a way to add value
Value selling isn’t much without “value,” is it?
So of course, your biggest priority is figure out what kind of “value” your products and services can offer.
Generally, there are five ways you can add value:
- Making more money. The most straightforward source of value is more money. Many products and services are designed to help businesses and individuals make more money. If a subscription to a $100/month service can help you generate $300/month, it pays for itself and then some; unfortunately, not all money-making correlations are so clear or easy to pitch.
- Saving money. You can also add value by helping a prospect save money. If they’re currently paying $100/month for a product like yours, and yours is only $75/month, even though it has all the same features, the switch should be a no-brainer.
- Outcompeting a top competitor. Value isn’t always about money, of course. You can also add value to a person’s life by making their life easier in some way, or by giving them more. If your product is similar to a competitor’s, including its price level, you can often get the value edge by offering more features or incentives.
- Reducing risk or other downsides. You can also add value by reducing risk or mitigating other negatives. For example, you might be able to keep your prospects safer, healthier, or more secure with your products and services.
- Providing emotional or subjective value. This is the biggest, broadest, and arguably the most important category because of its flexibility; you can add value in a number of subjective ways that are harder to measure. For example, you can add value aesthetically, offering prospects something visually beautiful that they prefer for personal reasons. Or you can make your prospect’s emotional experience much better by providing top-of-the-line customer service – compared to your competitor’s hands-off and distant management approach.
2. Serve, rather than sell
You’re a salesperson, right?
If you wan to excel at value selling, get that idea out of your head.
In the value selling methodology, you’re not a seller. You’re a servant.
Your job is to help your prospects find the best possible solution, whether that’s yours or not. You want to inform them, guide them, and help them reason – not simply persuade them to buy your stuff.
This approach makes it much easier to engage with your customers and will make it easier to figure out the real value that your products/services offer.
You should always be listening closely to what your prospects are saying – in fact, you should be listening more than talking.
Too many salespeople following antiquated sales methodologies make the mistake of, well, never shutting up.
Instead, ask lots of sales discovery questions. Pay attention to what your prospect is saying. Use the information you gather to fuel your next line of discussion.
4. Get to know your prospects and customers
In line with this, it’s important to really get to know your prospects and customers.
The whole point of the value selling methodology is to present your product or service as something valuable to your prospect’s life.
But how can you possibly do that if you don’t know what’s important to them? Or if you don’t know how they define “value” in the first place?
Do demographic research and study your typical clients carefully. Then, get to know each of your prospects on an individual basis – long before you try to start selling to them.
5. Build trust
Value selling only really works if your prospects trust you.
You can build trust by providing honest, transparent answers to all their questions, checking in frequently, and offering good advice that improves their life in some way.
You can also prove your claims with facts and statistics, showcase your industry expertise, and cite other clients who you’ve helped in the past.
But most of all, trust is something that takes time.
You may have to interact with prospects many times, and prove your trustworthiness over and over, before they’re willing to accept your suggestions and reasoning.
6. Establish and follow a repeatable process
Just following the value selling methodology isn’t going to be enough to guarantee you increased sales, unfortunately.
If you want to see better results, you need to pair these philosophies with a robust, repeatable sales process.
This sales process is going to look different for every company and might look different for each individual salesperson.
But it should still provide the groundwork and details necessary for a salesperson to reliably interact with prospects, gain their trust, and eventually get to a position that allows them to close.
Brace for lots of trial and error in this phase.
Value Selling Examples
Let’s see how value selling works in practice, with some examples of dialogue that could unfold in the value selling methodology.
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Before each of these interchanges, assume that the seller has done exhaustive research on the prospect, that they know them well, and that they’ve already had a few interactions before this.
S=sales rep, P=prospect
1. Selling a product that can make a prospect more money.
S: “You told me you were having trouble hitting your sales goals.”
P: “Yes, we’re usually about $25k short.”
S: “And you think that’s because your salespeople are too busy with arbitrary tasks? Admin work, meetings, and the like?”
P: “Yeah, it kills us. We have plenty of leads – just not enough time to hit them all up.”
S: “Well, we sell a tool that automates half of the things you’re talking about. It handles scheduling, routine emails – it even auto-dials prospects to call. Some of our clients have saved 5 hours of work per team member per week. What could your sales reps do with an extra 5 hours of time? How many prospects could they call?”
P: “At least 20 extra calls per sales rep.”
S: “So how much extra revenue would that generate?”
2. Selling a product that can save a prospect money.
S: “Do you know what you’re currently spending on outsourcing customer service?”
P: “Something like $25k per month.”
S: “That seems like a lot. Based on what we discussed previously, I believe a good chatbot could answer approximately 70 percent of your incoming customer questions. What would happen if we could serve 70 percent of your customers before they even called?”
P: “We could scale back the customer service department by about 70 percent. Hypothetically.”
S: “Right. Which works out to about $17,500 in savings, roughly. Our chatbot services, by contrast, only cost $1,000.”
3. Selling a product that can outcompete a competitor.
S: “This project management platform you’re currently using… is it easy to integrate with your other systems?”
P: “Not really.”
S: “Does it track time both automatically and manually?”
P: “No. Manual is the only option.”
S: “And you said your biggest pain point was the fact that reports don’t give you the productivity metrics you need to make workload balance decisions. So what if I told you there was a product on the market that could do all those things – and still cost about the same as what you’re currently paying?”
4. Selling a product that can reduce risk.
S: “Your company is young. Any security breach could wreck your reputation for years to come.”
P: “That’s right.”
S: “Yet you’re not using any kind of encrypted messaging channel to send and receive secure information?”
P: “It’s honestly not something we thought about before.”
S: “I understand how it can fly below the radar. But the reality is, 83 percent of companies have accidentally exposed sensitive data – and most of those exposures come from unsecured communication. You can reduce your risk sharply by putting the right security measures in place.
5. Selling a product that has emotional or subjective value.
S: “I see you have a fleet of company vans.”
P: “Yeah, they’re indispensable. We couldn’t run a business without them.”
S: “They’re not very rad though. Wouldn’t it be so rad if they all had flames on the sides?”
P: “That would be rad, yeah.”
S: “Let’s make your business rad.”
This example is the least realistic, but it demonstrates something important; value is often subjective, and there’s room to pitch your product or service in a number of different ways.
Once you get to know your prospect well, feel free to get creative and experiment to find the right approach.
The Strengths of Value Selling
So why is value selling a beneficial sales methodology?
There are a few important reasons:
Value selling is a good way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Most of your competing salespeople are going to be focused on describing their product in the most flattering way possible.
You, on the other hand, will be selling the true value of the product – what it does, rather than what it is.
Defeating the salesman stereotype.
These days, people are practically allergic to the “traditional salesman” stereotype.
If they feel like someone is trying to persuade, manipulate, or pressure them, they’re going to ignore them. To land sales and build better relationships, you need to overcome that stereotype.
Value selling can help you do it. Instead of a persuader attempting to convince someone to buy something, you’ll cast yourself as a helpful informant, whose main purpose is to help your prospects find value.
Any product or service can be sold with some variant of the value selling framework. That’s because anything worth selling is valuable, in some way, to the right people.
It’s your job to figure out what that value is.
Overcoming resistance to change.
Change is really hard for most people.
In the Dannemiller model for change management, change can only occur when a combination of dissatisfaction, optimism for the future, and ease of transition can overcome a person’s natural resistance to change.
Value selling is a way to crack the formula; if you can show them a vision of a better future, they’ll be willing to undergo a change.
Selling is always tough, no matter what sales methodology you choose.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.