"Value over price." A mantra many of us in sales and marketing have echoed throughout our careers. Yet, for all its popularity, how many truly grasp its intricate dynamics? Beyond the cursory understanding that selling on value trumps price-led strategies, lies a landscape rich with nuance, unique perspectives, and the complex interplay of human emotions and desires that lie beneath the surface.
In a continued effort to help sales and marketing professionals improve their craft, his article is going to shed light on what many overlook: the multifaceted and uniquely personal nature of 'value'.
I’m going to lay out the variable nature of ‘value’, provide personal examples of what this looks like in highlighting interactions with Chief Information Officers and provide insights into the psychological depths that determine value perceptions. Ultimately, we’re going to take on some of the nuance and demystify what it really means to sell based on value.
So, let’s talk about selling that truly resonates with individualized perceptions of value.
The Nature of Value is Not Uniform: It’s Subjective
Every decent sales pitch and marketing campaign operates under a simple premise: communicate value. Yet, in my years of experience, I've learned that value isn’t always a fixed point on a chart. It oscillates, driven by individual perspectives and emotions. To draw this out, I’d like to share a story from my days working with hospitals, selling patient electronic signature solutions.
Essentially, I sold a technology toolset to hospitals that allows patients to sign all their paperwork electronically, streamlining processes and eliminating an avalanche of paper. On the surface, the value proposition is clear: save time and money. After all, we can all quantify dollars and even put a price on time. However, the real essence of value emerges when we peel back the layers and examine the personal motivations, fears, and aspirations of decision-makers.
I often worked with Chief Information Officers (CIOs) of these hospitals. While they all occupied the same position, their interpretation of value varied widely.
Many CIO’s I worked with were driven by a deep-seated concern for the well-being of the hospital staff. They felt the burden of the paper-driven chaos they contended with daily. For these CIO’s, value was not just about saving money but alleviating the stress of their colleagues, making their tasks more manageable, and enhancing patient care. Once I understood their value system I could align my solution with these values, and tap into his deeper motivations. The focus was not on the commodity savings relative to time and money, but on the transformative impact it would have on the people they deeply cared about.
Now, let’s look at a different type of CIO I would often deal with that had a much more potent ego. In working with these individuals it did not take too long to uncover their aspirations were tinted with personal ambitions. They envisioned themselves as the saviors—the heroes who would introduce groundbreaking solutions to age-old problems. Their sense of value was wrapped up in self-recognition, glory, and career progression. With them, my pitch was less about the collective good and more about their personal brand. I'd discuss creating press releases and case studies that spotlighted their innovative spirit. I would even allude to how our collaboration could be a stepping stone in their illustrious career as I had done that for many other CIO’s before. Once they saw that I could help pave a path to glory and enable career ascension, they could see nothing else than the radiant reflection in the mirror of their bolstered ego.
These encounters underscore a fundamental truth: value is a mosaic of personal experiences, aspirations, fears, and desires. While functionality and savings are universal selling points, the emotional undercurrents that define value are diverse and deep-seated.
Unearthing the Emotional and Psychological Layers of Value
When it comes to decision-making, especially in business, we like to think of ourselves as rational beings. We assume choices are made after carefully weighing the pros and cons. However, numerous studies and real-world observations have shown that emotions often play a more significant role than we'd like to admit. The undercurrents of our feelings, desires, fears, and aspirations influence how we perceive value.
The Emotion-Driven Decision Matrix
Every decision, at its core, is a response to a specific emotional trigger. For instance, the purchase of a security system might be driven by fear. The decision to buy a luxury car might stem from a desire for status or affirmation. Understanding these emotional drivers is crucial for marketers and salespeople because they serve as the foundation upon which value perceptions are built.
Chris Voss, in his book "Never Split the Difference," rightly points out that people value things unequally. Our valuations are based on a multitude of factors, including our personal experiences, cultural background, current circumstances, and future aspirations. This unequal valuation means that the same product or service can have varying degrees of importance for different people.
Digging Deeper: Beyond Surface-Level Value
Let's go back to the example of the patient electronic signature solution. On the surface, the value is evident: reduced paper use, time savings, and monetary savings. But what lies beneath the surface is a world of emotional triggers:
- For the hospital staff, it means less tedious paperwork, reducing daily stress and frustration.
- For patients, it means quicker admissions and a more seamless healthcare experience.
- For the hospital's management, it translates to better resource allocation, streamlined operations, and potential accolades for innovation.
- And as previously highlighted, for the CIO, it might mean anything from personal career advancement to genuine concern for their team's well-being.
Mapping Emotions to Value Propositions
A crucial task for marketers and salespeople is to map these emotions to their value propositions. This involves:
- Understanding the Customer: This goes beyond demographics. It involves delving deep into their psychographics – their attitudes, fears, desires, and challenges.
- Segmentation: Breaking down your audience into distinct personas, each with its unique set of values. This is where sales teams, with their direct customer interactions, can provide invaluable insights.
- Tailored Messaging: Once you understand what drives each segment, you can tailor your messaging to resonate with those specific triggers.
By leveraging the principles from my earlier piece on focusing on customer pain points and combining them with the power of emotional appeals in marketing, you can craft a value proposition that resonates on a deeply personal level.
Aligning Marketing and Sales: Crafting and Communicating Value
Marketing and sales, while distinct, must align their strategies to ensure a consistent and impactful message about a product's or service's value. Their collaboration ensures that every potential customer encounters a value proposition tailored to their unique needs and aspirations.
The Role of Marketing: Crafting the Narrative
Marketing teams dive deep into research and insights to shape narratives that resonate with prospective customers. These narratives are designed to touch upon the emotional triggers and desires of various customer segments, positioning the product or service as the ideal solution to specific challenges or aspirations.
The Role of Sales: Personalizing the Pitch
Armed with the narrative crafted by marketing, sales teams adapt and fine-tune it based on their real-time interactions with potential clients. They’re the direct link to the customer, adjusting the overarching narrative to suit individual situations. Whether identifying a CIO's ambition to be recognized as an industry leader or understanding their genuine commitment to their team's well-being, sales can shape the conversation to match.
A Smooth Transition: From Narrative to Conversion
For the customer, transitioning from the broader marketing narrative to the personalized sales pitch should feel cohesive and tailored. When marketing and sales align in strategy and communication, they amplify the value proposition, ensuring the customer feels acknowledged and valued throughout their journey.
This alignment between marketing and sales enables businesses to articulate and deliver their value proposition effectively, resonating with the diverse values of each potential customer.
Selling based on price is a one-dimensional approach in a multidimensional world. As businesses, if we are to thrive and form genuine connections with our potential clients, understanding the subjective nature of "value" is paramount. Just as our solutions and services are tailored to meet diverse needs, our approach to articulating value should also be crafted with precision, adaptability, and depth. By recognizing and addressing the individual values and aspirations of every potential client, businesses can forge deeper connections, drive conversions, and create lasting relationships that go beyond a mere transaction. It's not about selling a product or a service; it's about selling a vision, a promise, and a commitment to the values that your customers hold dear.
- Value is Subjective: Different people attribute different amounts of value to various features and benefits, based on their unique pain points, aspirations, and emotional triggers.
- Dive Deeper into Emotions: Beyond tangible benefits, understanding the emotional motivations of potential clients can supercharge your selling strategy.
- Marketing & Sales Alignment: While marketing crafts the broader narrative, sales personalizes it. This alignment is crucial for a consistent and resonating value proposition.
- Individualized Approach: It's essential to fine-tune your approach for every individual, adapting to what they value most.
- Value Over Price: Shifting the focus from price to value not only enhances the selling experience but also fosters genuine and lasting connections with customers.