Lots of sales organisations talk about ‘adding value’ as a key element of their sales strategy, but what do they actually mean and what, if any, value is really being added? When we look more closely at what companies mean by adding value we hear things like “Going the extra mile” and “Giving a little bit more”.
In most cases it involves the selling organisation giving something the customer values – and not charging them for it. So no value has actually been created or ‘added’, it has just changed hands.
Effective companies realise this and do more. They seek to add genuinely new value by exploring the customer’s problems and needs to uncover new, additional ways their product or service can help.
By discovering new areas of impact that the same solution can address, the seller can create new value without giving anything more away – and genuinely add value for the customer in the process.
Most organisations can identify the value their products and services can deliver and every organisation knows that product innovation is essential for competitive advantage. But what happens when product or service innovation is hard to achieve or maintain? What do you do when there genuinely is little or no significant product differentiation?
Once again it comes back to how the sales organisation approaches its customers. Customers buy what they value, the products and services that satisfy their needs – and the more needs you uncover, the more your solution is valued.
And what if, as well as uncovering more needs we begin to look for different needs? Perhaps we can explore needs in other areas or, by considering the implications of a problem, link needs across the customer’s business. For example, a failed component may stop production but what effects could that have? Could it mean order deadlines are missed and penalties incurred? Could it lead to customers being let down and so your reputation becoming tarnished? Suddenly a simple engineering problem has consequences for finance, sales and top management.
And most important of all, if you are the only seller who explores these areas, yours is the only solution that’s addressing them. You have created differentiation not by having product capabilities that your competitors don’t, but by uncovering needs and value that they haven’t.
So there is always product/service differentiation and there’s always genuine added value – you just have to be skilled enough to find it.