Add value by first establishing credibility
I would like to focus this article on Value-Added Selling. But this topic is big. In fact it’s so big that I am going to cover it in four parts. In this first installment, I will define Value-Added Selling and talk about how establishing credibility is an important first step in selling value to your customers.
What is Value-Added Selling?
Value-added selling simply means there has to be some inherent worth to the client from what he is purchasing from you. Obviously, to present and sell the right solution (and the right solution means one that has value to the client) you first must understand what the prospect needs, how they operate, what problems they may experience, and more. Therefore, you should learn about your prospect’s business, what products they offer, who they sell to, what their market is like, who their competitors are, the lingo or catch phrases they use in their industry, their unique business challenges, and any information that will help you better understand them and their business problems.
As a result, your presentations should not be standard, vanilla, boilerplate slides or text. They should be customized to the prospect’s business and their unique situation and problems. They should reflect your knowledge of their business and industry, and they should present solutions that address the problems they described to you in the earlier qualification phase of the sales process.
You can learn a lot about your prospect’s business by getting involved in their business. Attend their staff meetings, go on a plant tour, go into the field with their people, and just spend time with them learning. As a result, you will position yourself as a valued business partner. All this effort will add value to the relationship and, therefore, the sales process. This is what value-added selling is all about.
To do a good job of selling value, you must first ensure that the prospect knows enough about you and your company to establish your credibility. The time to do that is after you asked good questions and listened, carefully, to your prospect so you can learn about their needs, pains and problems. Establishing credibility is part of the value that you and your company bring to the negotiating table. Hence, establishing credibility is the first part of the discussion about adding value.
At this point in the sales process, you should have already established some personal credibility by showing you care more about the prospect than yourself, or about their problems instead of just making a sale, or about their bottom line rather than your own commission. Now is the time to make sure they know everything they should about your company and, if needed, about yourself.
While this is a necessary step, it can’t occur until this point in the sales process. You first must qualify the prospect by asking the right questions and listening carefully. Then you need to make sure you understood the prospect’s requirements and verify that you both agree to what was said.
Once those vital steps are done, it is your turn to do the talking. Establishing your credibility is necessary at this time — after you’ve done these other steps and before you present the solution — so that the prospect understands whom they are dealing with and feels comfortable about you and your company.
What does the prospect need to know about you? They need to know things like who you are, your products, your customers, your company’s history and their track record. They need to know your company’s reputation and what they stand for. Basically, they want to know whom they are working with, and they have a right to know this.
You can’t assume that they already know any of this information. Just because you may have sent them a literature package or they said they went to your web site, that doesn’t mean they read the key points that you want them to know, or that they remembered it, or even understood it or related to it. You need to make sure you cover these points so they are comfortable with doing business with your company.
All you need to do is simply ask, “Can I ask how much you already know about my company?” They’ll typically say they know a little or even nothing, which opens the door for you to fill in the blanks. So let’s talk about what those blanks should be.
First of all, what corporate literature do you have? Do you have, and carry with you, brochures, data sheets, case studies, testimonials, press releases, information from your web site, and more? If not, get them. You can never underestimate their value. Even if it remains unread, a well-produced piece of collateral shows you are for real and professional. Whereas a black-and-white photo copy of your product sheet looks substandard and unprofessional. It makes you look like you work out of your garage. Even if you do work out of your garage, you don’t have to look like you do. As they say: It’s all in the presentation. I always get a kick out of a prospect who grabs my 4-color, glossy, professionally printed brochure, and immediately places it in a folder, very carefully, just so they have it for their files. It means a lot to them.
What’s even more valuable is the Case Study. As long as you have at least one successful, satisfied client, you can write a case study. It doesn’t have to be more than one or two pages long, but it should be well written and printed professionally. The case study simply states what problem or challenge the client had, what solution they deployed (which would be your product or service), and what the ultimate results were. It helps your prospect visualize your solution in the eyes of one of their peers, instead of from you. Very valuable.
Testimonials are equally valuable. You should get a one-to-three sentence statement from every one of your clients about what a great product you have or how wonderful you are, print them on a sheet of paper, or multiple sheets if you have that many, and hand them out to your prospects. Not only will testimonials help establish your credibility because they are other people bragging about you instead of doing it yourself, but it often prevents the prospect from even asking you for reference accounts. Once they see all the nice things other clients have said about you, their need to check on your reference accounts usually goes away. It’s like preventive medicine. Of course the Mother of all marketing material is the article written about your company in a magazine or newspaper. Reprints of those are worth a fortune to you.
Having good professional marketing material will help build credibility and add value to the sale. But this is just the first step. There’s more, lots more. Next topic I’ll discuss Selling Your Company and how to differentiate yourself from your competition. In the third step, I’ll discuss Relationship Selling. And in the fourth and final issue in this Value-Added Selling Series, I’ll discuss Selling Benefits versus Features. Till next step, start working on establishing your credibility.