Value Selling vs. Price Selling

I read an article in about selling on value vs. price (  It makes some valuable points, though I believe others are missing that are equally important.

The article begins by stating that you need to target your prospects, but I believe this is more than ”researching the potential client to see if they are a good candidate to meet your price needs.”  (I’ve written blogs on the topic of negotiating price and its relationship to value.)  It is important to identify your ideal prospect on multiple levels and ask questions to decide if there’s a fit.  This takes about an hour of time and is worth it.

A key missing piece is—What questions are you asking to clearly identify client needs?  Inc. talks a lot about presenting and “wielding the full weight of your company’s strengths.”  Shouldn’t one of those be asking clarifying questions to ensure you’re on the right track?

For most of us (I’ve been on the giving and receiving ends of these situations), presentations are a bore.  As the prospect, I am sitting with you because I already have done my own research on you and your company, probably checked references, and have a sense of your capabilities.  I have enough confidence to bring you in.

What I want to know is how are you going to learn about me and my company and solve my real needs?  Talking at me is unlikely to achieve this result.

I enjoyed some of the points in the article, including its premise that “selling on value, not price, involves a balance of confidence, personal rapport, and doing your homework.”  Yet it felt a bit outdated.  It focused on selling and presenting.  It only briefly touched on building rapport, which is such a key component to developing long-term business relationships.  Rapport is based on trust, and hopefully is nurtured during the thoughtful exchange before contracts are signed.

Another point to add:  Today’s market is buyer-focused.  It’s become a bit of a cliché.  We call it the buying process, not the selling process.  It’s more than a matter of semantics, don’t you think?  This mentality shifts the focus away from you, your bravado and presentations, and works to identify client needs.

There is also another aspect regarding price that was overlooked.  Assuming the seller has done their homework, you can discuss budget parameters, but it is often good to step back and summarize what you’ve heard throughout your conversations.  In all fairness, each situation is different and the Inc. article points to generalities.  However, if you have the opportunity to send a summarizing document and be sure you’re on track, a brief follow up conversation can be held.  That’s when to discuss price.  A question we have found to be helpful is:  “How does this fit with your budget?”  Simple and direct.

Confidence, another factor mentioned, is certainly important, though it needs to be balanced by recognition that you don’t know everything.  Prospects want to know you’re going to ask questions to learn their specific business challenges and understand their needs, not sell a cookie-cutter solution.

I would offer that this article would be best turned upside down.  Begin with a focus on building rapport with the client and understanding needs and company background.  Begin by incorporating personal touches. (Yes, we believe strongly in the value of personal, hand-written thank you notes.)  Go in knowing that value is long term and that’s what’s important to your business relationship—and growth.  If the first few questions focus on price, than either a) you didn’t do your homework and/or b) you didn’t ask qualifying questions before your meeting.

It is the steps you take to discover and connect that ultimately get you to that all-important meeting.  Hopefully it will be an exchange and not a presentation with you, the salesperson, speaking most of the time.  The 80/20 rule is certainly the topic of another blog.

The prospect already invited you to the party.  Be a gracious, thoughtful guest.

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