Recently a senior executive shared the following about a meeting with a sales team: “The discussions with the sales team quickly devolved into a pitch of features that did not align to my needs…. I would have told them my needs, but they seemed to think they knew better… I went with the competitor.”
This is not an unusual thing for Farland Group to hear in our discussions with CXOs across many different organizations and industries. Why is this? Because it takes a lot of effort to understand what a customer values, and sales teams are incented to drive sales at volume and speed.
The irony is that understanding what your customer values is not that challenging, but it does require a customized approach. Most sales go wrong – when the seller assumes a one-size-fits-all approach. The customer quoted above went on to explain that the seller was pitching him on something that mattered deeply to another banking customer, and while they shared the same industry, the values of the two customers were vastly different.
When talking with the sales person, he asked me how to get to an understanding value. Ironically it is as simple as asking, but often in our speed to prepare for a meeting, we create a deck or pitch that doesn’t allow for dialogue. Some of the following questions work well to get to an understanding of customer value:
- Where are you focusing your strategy today?
- What are the top 3 challenges that you are trying to overcome?
- What solutions are you working on to address those challenges?
It is easy to fall back into pitch mode, but customers are very savvy. Building shared value is foundational to building any relationship of strength and longevity and the seller that focuses on understanding customer value will win the day.