June 17, 2013
Both suppliers and distributors add a lot of value for their customers. No question.
However, Making Value Mean Something to Customers is a different story, recently studied by Tim Underhill of Strategic Business Solutions. Basically, he fears a slide back to the inability to communicate (or at least the inability to translate) the differences between ‘features’ and ‘benefits.’ I agree.
Fact–based differentiation is a swell idea, but is rarely communicated clearly to customers. This is partially the fault of PowerPoint; how many ‘dueling bullet points’ can anyone really internalize?
I think that there are four critical errors repeated by both supplier and distributor salesmen that severely shortcut the ‘value of our value story’:
The situation is clear. The balance of power has shifted completely to the customers, who now defined their own individual value propositions.
Today customers are no longer willing to listen to the salesperson’s description of how their marketing department defines value. Customer access to high quality decision-making information, commoditization of products, availability of pricing and inventory (along with expanding worldwide sources of supply) have combined to empower customers.
The role of sales has evolved from communicating a predefined value proposition into working with the customer to create a unique value proposition.
Yet most sales forces have not made this transition. To survive and prosper in this new environment, sales force management and personnel must recognize and accept that the customer — not the marketing department — defines the value proposition.
Sales is no longer about doing a good job of communicating features and benefits. It’s about working with each customer to create value as the customer defines it.
Bill Wade is a partner at Wade & Partners and a heavy-duty aftermarket veteran. He is the author of Aftermarket Innovations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.