Do your sales people just “show up and throw up?”

Do they? I first heard this phrase of ‘showing up and throwing up' a few years ago. It was made by an experienced sales director who wanted to move her sales team from feature selling to value selling.

I asked her what it meant. She said she’d didn’t want our sales process to be about our sales person and our company… but more about the prospect and their company. It always seemed that the company was attracting the ‘wrong type of customer’. They were the ones that didn’t spend much money but were a huge drain on internal support resources, most of which was given away free.

She’d worked out that the reason for this was a mismatch between what the company was selling and what the customer wanted to buy.

… and this all started when the sales team attended their first prospect meeting. Rather than sit down and ask questions to understand their potential customer’s needs, they put on their comfort blanket… their laptop.

They then proceeded to tell the customer what they were selling – often in minute detail – and often only coming up for breath when interrupted.

You can hear it, can’t you?

“Yes, we’ve added this great bit of functionality X that enables you to do Y… oh, and I nearly forgot, if you use our new feature Z, you can see how it updates report A”.

Anyway, she made a brave call and completely overhauled the sales process so that the sales person focused on the value they offered, not just the products and services.

It wasn’t an overnight change; it took a few months as it required lots of conversations on who were the type of customers the company wanted, what were the key differentiators compared with the competition, what did a perfect customer look like?

Once that was agreed, numerous interviews with ‘premier customers’ were held. Why did they buy from us in the first place? What made us stand out from the competition? What things did they really appreciate when working with us?

In fact, what was happening was the company was identifying its true value proposition, not only at company level but at the key target markets it wanted to serve.

Once in place, this new insight led to a brand new marketing communications approach with messaging that matched, was consistent with and could be used by the field sales team.

The moral of the story? If you want to be successful long term, listen to your customers. Ask them questions whenever you can, find out what business gains they will obtain by working with you and what business pains or risks you can reduce for them… and guess what? You can also charge them more for the value you are offering.

If only it was that simple… having great value propositions needs to be thought through and must be linked to the company’s business strategy. But if you can make it work, you can “show up and talk about value!”