The Problem with Leading with Your Value Proposition

The question in my inbox was in response to a post titled, “Relationship Selling and the Value of Intimacy.” I wrote that people who deny the value of relationships often “believe they need only share their value proposition with a prospective client, and that should be enough to win the business.”

Because what this person sells literally costs the client nothing in the way of payment upfront, his company makes money by sharing what they recapture in errors and overcharges. The salesperson believes it should be an easy decision to make. While he believes relationships and trust would help him improve his results, he asks for specific things he might do to improve his conversions.

He also suggests that his clients are busy and don’t have time, a separate and unrelated challenge. But one that precedes the others in its importance, as well as chronologically.

Do You Belong in the Room, and How So?

Not believing that you belong in the room with your prospective clients will cause them to share your opinion. If you don’t think that what you have to offer them should cause them to close their laptop lid, set their phone face down on their desk, and give you their full and undivided attention, you make it incredibly difficult for your prospective client to believe you are worth their time.

While it is important to have a compelling value proposition, without commanding your prospect’s time and attention, your great value proposition will fall on deaf ears. It’s not enough to believe in your value proposition, even though that is important.

You also have to believe that you are worth their time. Believing that your client should be paying you for your advice and the better results you are going to help them achieve is an even better belief to hold—because it’s true. The money you collect comes from the clients who bought from you.

The Assumptive Opening and Close?

Those of us in b2b sales learned the assumptive close a very long time ago, and as awkward as it is, some still use it, but not to great effect. As far as I know, no one has mastered the assumptive opening, one in which you lead with your strong value proposition and skip the entire consultative sales conversation, even though I am sure the few cases where this might be true will lead one to wrongly conclude it works.

How to Build a Relationship

Some people like other people. They like to hear their stories, and they like to engage in conversations with others. Mainly, however, really good salespeople are comfortable in their own skin. They’re not afraid to be who they are, making it easier for people to be who they are.

I call your sales process the “sales conversation” because that is exactly what it is. You might want to break into different stages, and you might be so sophisticated that you design “customer verifiable outcomes” that indicate the gates between the stages. While that is all fine and good, it’s still a conversation. The way that you develop relationships with people is by spending time with them having conversations.

The tricky part of relationships is recognizing that you also have to create value for your prospective client, meaning they need to be better off from having spend time with you, which means teaching them something they don’t know, and helping them with a better result when they buy from you.

These two things are not separate from each other. You build the relationship through the entire process, including any rapport-building you might do (some suggest you do it before the sales agenda, some say after, but if you are loose enough, you can do it the whole way through).

Improving Conversions

What salespeople who share this challenge might do to improve their conversions is relatively straightforward. First, when you are selling something conceptual, you should not expect your prospective clients to believe they have a problem worth solving. They are not trying to solve the problem you can solve for them, or they would no longer have that problem.

Second, you should slow down and share with your prospective client something they don’t know, like: “In most businesses, they pay incorrect invoices, costing them an average 11% more than they should be paying. Some do a little better, and a lot do a whole lot worse. In either case, recovering those overcharges is pure profit to the company, and it improves their cash flow.”

Here is the rub: Until your client believes they have a problem worth solving, your value proposition lacks any value to that prospective client. Lacking a real, compelling reason to change, people don’t generally take any action at all. Said another way, the value proposition is out of context.

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