Mark Hunter: Hey, isn’t it cool that we have VanillaSoft as our sponsor? Pretty cool!
Meridith Elliott Powell: Yeah, they’re an impressive company. Not only with the product they produce and what they do in the sales arena. Also, they are a promotions machine, and I think we are really lucky to have them onboard supporting Sales Logic. Now you’ve known Darryl for a while, haven’t you?
Mark Hunter: Oh, he is just a great… Listening to his voice over there, he clearly must drink as much coffee as I do, which I know who does. I know who does drink a lot of coffee. Darryl is so in tune with what’s happening out there in the sales world, the breadth and the depth of the conversations that he has, and that’s why it’s really cool that they kind of selected us for their title sponsor.
Let’s put it this way. It’s a marriage that came together really well. So we’ll just kind of leave it at that.
Meridith Elliott Powell: Well, Mark, I really love that they have decided to support the podcast because they are really dedicated to all things sales. But why don’t you just tell our listeners just a little bit about VanillaSoft, who they are, what they do, and what they’re doing in the world of sales.
Mark Hunter: Sure. The best way to describe them is they’re going to help you keep your leads in order to allow you to manage because, and I hate to use the word artificial intelligence, but they have a way to queue up the leads so that stuff doesn’t fall through the cracks. I hear time and time again and I’ve had a chance to talk with a number of their customers; they all say, “Wow, the number of deals that they’re able to close and close faster because of how their system works and how it integrates with other tools.” Wow. Think about this. How many people wake up in the morning and say, “Oh man, I want to prospect. I want to prospect”? Not too many people.
What’s nice is this makes that, okay, it doesn’t make the pain go away. It can still be difficult. Personally, I don’t think so. I know you don’t feel that way. But for a lot of people, it just makes it feel so much more efficient and so much more effective.
Meridith Elliott Powell: Well, I think that everybody needs to check out VanillaSoft. What were you going to say, Mark?
I think we’re realizing that we’re probably going to have to live with COVID for a long while. So we better just figure out a solution and not allow it to become the dominant thing in all of our minds. We just got to figure out a solution.
I have found more ways to be more efficient in the last six or eight weeks than I ever thought imaginable because I can’t imagine how did I ever have time to travel? I mean, that’s what’s kind of blowing my mind. I did, now I live in a small town. I live in Omaha, okay? Actually once in the past few months, I have driven past the airport just to see that it’s still there. Okay, it’s still there. I mean, I miss it. I do.
Meridith Elliott Powell: Yeah. I was thinking about something. I tend to live in Delta lounges. I mean, I’ve probably spent more time at a Delta lounge than I spent in my own home, and every Delta lounge that I walked in in January and February was packed to the gills. I really wonder how they’re going to manage that now and how they’re going to start just a lot of decisions and a lot of innovation that has to happen. But isn’t that what entrepreneurship and business is really about? It’s about, I think there’s a lot that you can learn from the fact that no matter how bad the challenges have been, we have always gotten through them and always found our way.
Mark Hunter: We always do and we always come out of the other end much smarter. Go back to the 2008 recession. Nobody wanted it, but we came out of that so much smarter as a result of that. So to a certain degree, no, I’m not wishing this on anybody. However, I’m viewing it as a learning experience, as a tool. I’m digging deeper into things that I didn’t ever think I’d have time to do. Now, my calendar is crazy, it’s busy, but I’m able to do things with clients that I never was going to be able to before. I’m able to streamline systems. I can’t believe how much time I wasted pre-COVID doing some things.
Meridith Elliott Powell: Yeah. It does make you get quite a bit more selective. I’ll tell you the thing that I’m most energized by is just how so many of the things that I consulted about or I talked about before COVID had become almost irrelevant. All of this has really forced me to go back in as I’ve listened to some of my customers’ challenges and their issues, not to just throw the same old answers, but to really go back in, dig and educate myself.
Since you’re from Omaha, you know the legendary advice of Warren Buffett, that he is an avid learner and reader and devotes quite a bit of time to that every day. While I’m not exactly on the Warren Buffett train of spending that much time, really reeducating myself and spending a lot of time upping my game has really reinvigorated me and gotten me excited again about some things.
Mark Hunter: My family room and my office has books stacked nearly three feet high. In fact, some more arrived the other day, plus Kindle books and so forth. I’ve got so many books that I’ve picked up and haven’t been able to read.
I think about Warren Buffet. He doesn’t live far away from me at all, and he reads 500 pages a day – yes, 500. You think about the knowledge and the accumulation of knowledge he gathers. Wow. I have got to read more. But here’s something that I figured out regarding this whole COVID thing. We are all going to bestow on each other an MBA in sales, because isn’t it amazing how we’ve really learned how to sell over the last couple of months? What I mean is that selling is truly understanding what the customer really values. So what does that do? It forces us to listen. It really forces us to create more trust. It really forces us to truly understand how we can make an impact and help the customer and that’s something that I think every salesperson I’ve talked to has echoed time and time. Wow. It’s been great. Yeah, it has been great.
Meridith Elliott Powell: Well, you know what, Mark, I think that since we’re talking about value and that has a lot to do with today’s show, we should probably kick off this week’s episode of Sales Logic. What do you think?
Mark Hunter: Well, I think we should. I think before we do that, because hey, we’ve been doing this on the YouTube and Facebook and so forth, and we’re going to try to continue this. Hopefully when we both get back on planes, we’re still going to find time to do this every week.
Meridith Elliott Powell: Definitely.
Mark Hunter: Because we’re really starting to pick up kind of an audience here and it’s really cool. Again, that’s kind of an outgrowth of COVID-19, but hey, we should get into the show.
When we prospect with integrity, we will get customers who have integrity. Integrity is the foundation from which everything is built on.
Meridith Elliott Powell: You better understand value. But at the end of the day, sales is a relationship business. It is a people business. It is emotional business.
Alright. So here we go. Welcome to Sales Logic, the show where we dive into the strategies, the techniques, the logical solutions to really help you sell and sell effectively in today’s marketplace. I’m Meridith Elliott Powell, and with me today is my cohost.
Mark Hunter, the Sales Hunter. It’s great to be with you today, Mer. We got a full action packed show and it is amazing how the sales world continues to change. So hey, why don’t you tease the audience a little bit with what we’ve got planned for today?
Meridith Elliott Powell: Yeah. So we’ve got a great topic today. Today we are going to talk about what is the difference between solution-based selling and value-based selling and how you make the change.
Before we dive into that, we’ve got a question from one of our listeners and you are always invited to submit a question… Lined up as we do every week with a fast track, the actual tips that you need to walk away and effectively put things into place. Today our fast track is going to be the top ways to sell value. So Mark, let’s kick off with today’s question. It is from Jim Stefanino from Kansas City. The question is: Given the impact of this crisis, should I update my value proposition, and if so, how?
Mark, question on the table to you.
Mark Hunter: Well, the first thing I have to ask Jim is if, since you’re from Kansas city, are you a Kansas City Chiefs fan. No, the real question I want to ask you, Jim, is do you think the Kansas City Chiefs are going to win the Superbowl again this year?
Okay. Now Meridith, I know you’re not into sports, but I just had to get that out on the table. Just had to. Hey, here’s the whole thing. I think we should always be updating our value proposition, and especially now in this COVID environment.
Mark Hunter: Things change and customers are looking for faster answers. They’re looking for more simplicity. They’re looking for a faster ROI. So I think you really do need to. I don’t know. I’d be curious. What are you hearing from people and what are you sharing with people?
Meridith Elliott Powell: Yeah. I’ve got to tell you that I think it’s probably one of the most important things that you do. Now, just in case anybody’s wondering, the very simplistic definition of a value proposition is this is the promise that you’re going to make to the customer. This is your differentiator in the marketplace. This is why they should choose you over the competition and what they believe they are going to gain in a value perspective. I think you need to update your value proposition because what your customer values in today’s marketplace has changed. We’ve got to reposition our products and services. I mean, value propositions are designed to solve our customer’s pain points, right? What’s bothering them, what’s worrying them. The way we sell is to fill the urgent need.
So the chances are high that your customer’s pain feeling has changed given the COVID crisis, whether they’re directly or indirectly impacted, whether they’ve been impacted in a way that their business is suffering or impacted in a way that their business is booming. Their problems and challenges have changed and that makes you need to change your value proposition.
Mark Hunter: I think with that, it’s got to be short, expedient, short and expedient. I’ve been stressing this with everybody. I can’t put something on the table with a value proposition that says, “Oh, this is going to really work on for you in 2025.” Customers are saying, “Hey, what is it now? What is it? What’s going to help get me through to the end of 2021 or 2020, let alone to 2021?” Oh, yeah.
Meridith Elliott Powell: Yeah. Mark, have we changed our own value propositions? I mean, how do we answer the question of what is the value that you bring to the marketplace? I was thinking about this just this morning, is that really before the COVID environment hit, my whole value prop was that I could work with you to turn uncertainty to competitive advantage. Now, really what I’m selling and helping people do is gain control in an uncertain marketplace, because my customers aren’t as worried about their competitors in today’s environment. They’re worried about how they get their own business up and running and what I sell is a three-step strategy to put you in a position to stabilize, grow and transform your business. So I’ve had to adjust my strategy even just a little bit, even though my value prop sort of spoke to this environment. I still want to go back in and tweak it, so when a customer hears it, they go, “That’s me. I recognize myself in that value prop.” What about you?
Mark Hunter: Well, yeah, I mean, mine has always been that I help you find and retain better customers that you can close at full price. What that’s meant is I’ve had to change just slightly in terms of because find and retain better customers, what does that mean? It means different things to different customers. Find and retain better customers right now. This may not be a long-term growth strategy. This is a short term growth strategy. What do we mean by full price? Full price might be full price, but on a smaller level. So yeah, I’ve had change to adapt to this COVID environment.
But you made a comment and I think you and I are both on the same track. Our mission / overall objective is still the same. All we’re doing is we’re changing a little bit of the track, the path that we’re traveling now to help the customer get there. That’s the only thing that we’re doing. We’re still staying focused and I think this is where a lot of companies get lost. I saw a company the other day. Totally unrelated. I can’t believe it. Now they’re making masks. They’re making masks. I go, “What? Where did this come from?” This is like so stupid, so stupid. Know what your core competency is and stay in that. You may have to change the path and the track a little bit, but you know what?
Mark Hunter: I don’t see the airline business. It’s getting pummeled right now, yet I don’t see the airline business, like Delta saying, “Oh, we’re going to get into trains. We’re going to get into… We’re going to buy Tesla.” No, they’re still an airplane business. They’re still in the mode of transporting people through the sky. That’s the lane that they’re in. They got different ways to deliver it.
Meridith Elliott Powell: Yeah. You just made me think about something. Because when I think about like Uber’s value prop is something like the smartest way to get around or something like that, and they may have to play with that value prop a little, because really Uber is surviving more now on Uber Eats and some of the other things that they’re doing. So I think the biggest thing just to keep in mind is when you think about your value prop, is it relevant to the problems and the pain points that your customers are having right now? If it is, great. Keep on moving with it. If it isn’t, then adjusted a little bit. But I think what Mark has said is so key is that you’ve got to stay aligned to your core values and the core of who you are.
Meridith Elliott Powell: You can look at businesses down through history that have really survived through uncertain times, and that’s one of the main principles. They’re clear about who they are and clear about the value that they bring to the customer. They may just have to change the wording a bit, the value prop, so it speaks directly to the pain that the customer is feeling. So we hope that that has solved today’s question. But Mark, we’ve got a topic to jump into, where we have to talk about the difference between solution-based selling and value-based selling. If we need to make the switch, so topic on the table, what do you think?
Mark Hunter: When you pose that topic to me, I got thinking, is this a chicken and an egg question? No, that’s not it. It’s not even close. This is really a more about boneless wings and bone-in wings. Let’s cut right to the chase, boneless wings and bone-in wings.
If you really stop and think about it, how do we get to value-based selling? First, we got to understand the need. We were talking about that when we were answering Jim’s question. Because you think about it, he’s got to change his value proposition. We both changed our value proposition slightly because the marketplace has changed. I think solution-based selling takes us to value-based. That’s just my theory. You’ve actually got the website, you actually have the website with the word value in it. So I have a feeling you are pretty strongly opinionated with this.
Meridith Elliott Powell: Well, I never really thought about it that way. I like what you’re saying, that solution brings you to value. I tell you, what I really think about it is solution-based selling is great. It is like getting to the first level with your customer. But if you stop at solution-based selling, you’re missing the opportunity to really be the level of value you need to your customer. Here’s the difference that I feel is number one is pretty much when we solve a solution, we’re probably solving a problem that the customer knows they have. Our job as salespeople is to help them identify and proactively solve the problems that they haven’t really identified yet that can help their business, help their teams and help their customers go to the next level.
Value-based selling to me is really where we come in and we think bigger. We really help them take the opportunities in their business to the next selling, to the next level. Where I feel like salespeople sell themselves short is that we take our cues from our customers, which is important, but once you solve those problems, go another level and help them think bigger and think bigger about the way that your products and services can help them achieve their goals in ways they’ve not thought of before.
Mark Hunter: Yeah. When you do that solution-based selling right, you create trust and confidence and deeper relationship, which is what we really hone in on here and this whole podcast. What does that do? That earns you the right to be able to go deeper with them, to be able to go farther with them, and that’s where I really feel the payout. Because if we stop and think about this, if all we do is help you, the customer, achieve the immediacy of your issue, we really haven’t done anything. All we’ve done is really provided a transaction that probably could have been done by waving your hand. See, the value that we bring, the solution-based and the value proposition that we bring is really based upon the intellect and the insights that we bring to the table and we help you uncover.
That’s where I always go, in order for me to really do value-based selling, I’ve got to first do solution-based selling because that helps me understand where I need to go with you. So that’s where I kind of come back to this whole piece of it really is about boneless wings and bone-in wings. They’re both great. I personally enjoy boneless wings if I don’t want to get my hands dirty, but if I really want good chicken wings, I got to have bone-in.
Meridith Elliott Powell: So I’m trying to figure out, are the bone-ins the solution or the value?
Mark Hunter: Don’t go there. I don’t have logical thinking…
Meridith Elliott Powell: Well, I just want to say that I think you brought up a really great point, and the point that you brought up is if you are just solution-based selling, you are doing what your competitors can do. You are not differentiating yourself. Value-based selling is what makes you a true resource and what makes your customers say, “I can’t live without you,” and that’s what we want in today’s marketplace. We want to hold onto our customers long-term and we want to make sure that even when our competitors come knocking at the door, they can’t possibly even think about going to work with them.
Mark Hunter: That really means that the sales process is really designed to create an ecosystem that brings you and the customer together to a level of understanding that you both can’t function without each other. That’s really what we’re talking about here.
Meridith Elliott Powell: How do you make the switch to become more value-based selling?
Mark Hunter: It’s funny. That’s very interesting because I guess maybe I grew up on value-based selling. When I first got into sales, that was kind of the methodology I was taught and it always came down to trying to quantify, how do I quantify it to really help you understand what is the ROI from what you’re going to do? So for me, it was almost harder to come back up, and I remember very vividly, I won’t bother to tell the story because it’s rather quite boring, but the time when I thought I was going to get fired from a job, yeah, if you read my book I got fired from a couple of sales jobs, but when I thought I was going to get fired from another sales job, because my manager didn’t think I had any sense of understanding what solution-based selling was all about, because I was so fixated on value and the solution is trying to understand what’s going on inside the customer’s head.
Meridith Elliott Powell: Yeah. Well, I mean, you grew up differently than I did. We certainly went to classes about, we called it relationship selling back then and we would go to classes and we would sit in classes for hours. That’s when training was three and four days long and then we’d walk right back out and we’d all just take orders. We would do, and we thought we were really mastering the sales process if we actually proactively called a customer and tried to sell them a product or try to sell them a product or service, they didn’t bring up to us. I think, for me, I feel the change came in the value-based selling when I started to truly think of myself as more of an educator than a salesperson, and that I spent the majority of the beginning of the relationship, not only engaging them in conversation and trying to hear, but educating myself on the industries in which I was selling into, so that I had more background and more understanding sometimes even more so than what my customers said as to what was going on in their industry and what they needed in order to be successful.
So I felt like for me, it took this flip in my brain of thinking these customers are my responsibility now, and the worst thing that can happen to me is not that I don’t get a sale, it’s that they find out about something they need from anybody else other than me. When I started to make that shift into that level of responsibility, I moved into a value-based sales professional.
Mark Hunter: Hey, I just got an idea. We need to put together a flip book. On one side, it’s value-based selling.
Mark Hunter: On the other side, it’s solution-based selling. So, okay.
Meridith Elliott Powell: That’s great. Good, another project.
Mark Hunter: Yeah. I mean, we don’t have anything else. We don’t have anything. I mean, we’re just sitting around doing nothing and we’ve been bored stiff, so yeah. I mean, yeah. Haha!
Meridith Elliott Powell: I do love it though. I think it could be filled with that was some good quick tips.
Mark Hunter: Yeah. Which is going to get us to the fast track here in just a second because we’re going to do a fast track, but before we do that, we should really talk about what is Sales Logic podcast and kind of what people should do, because we really do hope that you jump out to saleslogicpodcast.com, leave us a question just like Jim did from Kansas city, or go out to social media and just put a question out there and put a #saleslogic. We’ll see it. Because each week, we bring in a question from a listener. This is why Sales Logic is starting really hit home with so many people, and it’s one of the reasons why VanillaSoft is the sponsor, because they said, “Hey, you guys. We like what you’re doing. We want to be the sponsor.” Of course, we love it when that happens.
Mark Hunter: So hey, we should jump into the fast track.
Meridith Elliott Powell: All right.
Mark Hunter: So fast track question ready. Are you ready?
Meridith Elliott Powell: I’m ready.
Mark Hunter: Put your hand on the pole. Top ways, top ways to sell value. Go.
Meridith Elliott Powell: Top ways to sell value is number one is that you need to do your homework and you need to understand your customer. You need to be aware of the problems that they have.
Mark Hunter: I love that. I’m going to share with you, understand how do I quantify, how do I put it into dollars and cents? What is going to be the ROI you’re going to get from what you buy for me?
Meridith Elliott Powell: That’s great. You need to understand what value means to your customer because how you sell value to one customer versus another, even in the same industry, may be very, very different. People will pay for what they believe is going to build their business, but value may be different to different businesses.
Mark Hunter: What do I mean by that? What is it that the customer is looking for? It’s not what you think it is. It’s what the customer is willing to talk about twice. What I say is this, when the customer is willing to talk about a particular issue twice, then you know it’s a need that they have that they’re looking to have solved.
Meridith Elliott Powell: You need to make sure that you are actually selling the value. You can’t assume that the customer knows what the value is. So if the value that you bring to the table is that you are highly responsive, that they’re going to get some extra things going with it, that they’ll always be able to interact with a person, that you are guaranteeing a return on investment within 30 days, whatever it is, you have to articulate that value and make it part of the presentation. You just can’t assume they understand the difference between you and what they’re paying a competitor.
Mark Hunter: I’ll share one final one before we close the show, and that is it really is about taking the time to develop a level of trust with the customer first, because you’ll never understand what is the value proposition, you’ll never understand it until you first have a level of trust so that what they’re sharing with you is absolute truth and they have confidence in what they are sharing with you.
So hey, with that, we need to start shutting down this show. Let me say thank you for listening to Sales Logic this week. If you like what you hear, subscribe, rate, and review the show on your favorite podcast app. If something we’ve said has earned you a single dollar, consider telling a friend about our show. It’s how we grow to help you grow. I’m Mark Hunter.
Meridith Elliott Powell: I’m Meridith Elliott Powell.
Mark Hunter: Remember, when you sell with confidence and integrity.
Meridith Elliott Powell: Uncertainty suddenly becomes your competitive advantage.
Mark Hunter: And the sale becomes a logical.
Meridith Elliott Powell: We’ll see you next week.
Copyright 2020, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter” Sales Motivation Blog. Mark Hunter is the author of A Mind for Sales and High-Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results.