Let's jump right to Era 3....where business problems are more and more complex as are the solutions. Nothing is out of the box anymore. Era 3 is also rife with choice. The sales person's job is to analyze the customer's business and become a "trusted business advisor". To be successful, an Era 3 Salesperson (E3SP) needs to roll up their sleeves, live the customer's processes, figure out root cause problem areas and then solve for those unique problems. She has to go BEYOND the expertise of the customer as Thull says. The solution process is a collaboration. Their should be an on-going dialog. Theories must be tested and thoughts confirmed.
The E3SP must understand how to translate the value of her product or service. How will it solve the unique and complex business problems of the customer. You can't sell features and benefits anymore. You have to help the customer understand the root of his business process issues and SHOW him how you are going to solve for it.
So, how do you sell value? According to Thull, you must understand the 3 levels of value: Product, Process and Performance. Let's break them down:
Level 1 - Product: The salesperson is working with purchasing and maybe (maybe) operations regarding pricing and characteristics of the product. "The customer perceives that the value derived from the product is....available from multiple suppliers."
Level 2 - Process: The salesperson is working with operations and other relevant departments impacted by process problems we are solving for. The focus is on the process. This level is about productivity increases.
Level 3 - Performance: You are selling to VITO (very important top officer). You and your offering are working at the enterprise level. You are a strategic partner. Its about competitive advantage at this point.
When you operate at Level 3, your customer realizes that you provide a value leverage that no one else is. Your relationship is so; well, valuable to him that he sees a very high risk in switching to a competitor.
Make sure your sales team is engaging in conversations with your customers. Building relationships. Listening. Diagnosing processes and problems. Relating the problems other customers experienced. "Are you having similar problems?"
Make sure your sales team is talking to the right person. If you're talking to Angie in purchasing...well, you're dead. You're done. You are a commodity my friend. You are not a valued and trusted business partner.
At the end of the day:
You must think for your customers, creating revenue-building solutions that they don't have the time or the wherewithal to come up with and/or implement for themselves. And because the salesperson is the face of your company, he or she must be in the thick of the action, tirelessly working on behalf of those customers.
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