Learning how to sell value is critical in today’s market. To be effective at this task, salespeople need to be able to connect with customers at a deep level. They have to approach the sale by asking themselves, “Where can our offerings have the greatest impact on this customer’s business?”

To answer that question, you have to teach them these four basic skills of value selling:

  1. Clarifying what business problems the customer is trying to meet and how their stated need fits into a bigger picture. Customers who define narrow, specific needs tend to focus primarily on price because there are often a number of competitors who can meet those needs … so they will treat your offering as a commodity. Your reps have to know how to get the customer to appreciate a bigger picture: the bigger the perceived need, the more urgency the customers will have to buy and the more they will focus on value-drivers, not just price.
  2. Defining the customer’s buying process, including the roles of different decision makers. Customers go through predictable steps when making a buying decision. To sell value, the rep must be able to understand and support that process. What are the steps? What are decision makers typically involved? What role does each type of decision maker play in the process? At what points in the process does each decision maker get involved? And, most importantly, how can the rep make contact with each of these decision makers?
  3. Identifying what step of buying a decision maker is in and targeting their approach accordingly. What a rep should say to a prospect who is still trying to figure out if their need is big enough to warrant making a change is very different from what they should say to a prospect that is comparing vendors against specific buying criteria. A rep’s inability to make these distinctions is one of the biggest barriers to value-based selling because the rep is never in sync with customer buying.
  4. Playing up the differentiators that matter most to the client. Value-based selling only occurs when the customer is looking at factors other than price. That means your reps have to become adept at knowing what specific features of your offerings represent strong positive differentiators. On the flipside, they also need to know differentiators where your competitors have the advantage. They must know how to emphasize the former and downplay or counteract the latter.

Learning the skills of value selling and applying them is not easy. It often requires the rep to learn an entirely new philosophy about their sales responsibilities, not to mention connecting the skills listed above to sales situations they encounter in real life.

How can you help? First, have a model of a customer buying process that you can teach to your reps. Show them how to connect your organization’s sales process to each customer’s buying process.

Second, use role-plays so reps can practice identifying what step of buying a prospect is in and target their approach to topics and questions that are most effective at each step.

The better your reps can slow down their approach and connect with customer buying, the stronger the position they’ll be in when it comes times to close.

This blog is part of TopLine Leadership’s series called Sales Coaching 101. On the first Tuesday of every month, we’ll cover a fundamental skill that helps sales managers interact more effectively with their sales reps. Here are other articles from this series:

Kevin F. Davis, author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top.”

Kevin F. Davis is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top.” The book is available for purchase on Amazon.com.