“value matters but perceptions matter more”
There is a lot written on value in sales. As sales and business professionals it’s one of the first concepts we hear about and are taught. ‘Sell value not features’
If we know all this why do so many sales, account management professionals, consultants and organisations struggle to get this right? Why do so many clients complain they don’t see it?
There are a number of popular competing theories like...
Sales professionals sell to symptoms and not to root causes of their clients’ needs and outcomes. Eventually your client realizes what they actually need and they might not come back to tell you.
- Poor alignment between value propositions and what the market actually is looking to solve. And other factors you might want to read by Heather Baldwin in selling power
These are of course, true. But are they always true?
I’d like to propose that there is one hidden factor that isn’t being spoken about enough.
It's the assumption that the perceived value of the client at the time of purchase remains constant. The truth is our clients perceived value is a moving entity. Perceived value doesn’t belong to us. But we can influence it.
How did I come to this conclusion?
I saw this with my own clients and when supporting a manufacturing business in the UK. I was brought in to help manage a handful of important retail clients in the North of England. Their use of our service and product had changed dramatically over time including the purchase quantity. I began to explore this with these clients, asking some really specific questions:
- How relevant is our solution today based on when we started working together?
- How has the use and engagement of our solution changed for you in the last 12 months and why?
- What changes in your business have impacted the way you use our services?
- What specifically have you and the business noticed?
I was shocked at the wide variety of answers. The one thing that remained consistent in their responses was that the same perceived value at the early purchase had changed. The value we sold them at the beginning helped them at one phase in their business. But as their business pivoted our service didn’t. They bought what they thought we had but not what we could really offer. We just didn’t see it.
This was a game changing revelation for me. This may be the result of why some clients may not buy anything different or more of what they already have. Allow me to unpack this a little with an example;
You purchase a brand new phone from a provider. You were at a high. You’re enjoying it and things are going great. Everything that you perceived you needed is there. An entire year goes by, your life and how you use mobile has changed dramatically and you recognise your current phone doesn’t offer what you need today. Although you’ve had conversations with your phone provider you’ve seen no valuable updates despite seeing the rise of the new smartphones in the news. Renewal time comes and you get a call from your phone provider, asking you to renew your old phone or purchase a newer version of the same phone at a higher rate. Now, how excited would you be about that?
As simplistic an example this is, clients today may be experiencing this from you or your company. Customers are being asked to pay for the same service each year that hasn’t caught up with what they need today. They may only buy again for ease and expectation. As humans we love safety but self-interest is a much stronger driver.
Eventually something kicks in which I’ve called “The Value Saturation Effect”
This is where the perceived value and effectiveness of your product/service at the time of purchase is viewed as less valuable where no improvements are made over time or little results have been seen
Value perception gap with value infused
Without adding value at the piovtal points above the impact can be
- loss of credibility with the client,
- potential loss of sales, and l
- oss of competitive advantage.
This cycle happens all the time!
To prevent this saturation from happening you need to challenge the perceived value at different points in the life of your service or product: during purchase, integration, use and re-use.
These are the times when the most support is needed. It is also when shifting client needs and priorities tend to happen. Mergers, departmental changes, market disruption, contact leaves the business etc…
If you can adjust your customer conversations to be sensitive to these inevitable shifting perceptions by
- asking the right questions
- surveying your customers
- speaking to end users
- better understanding where the challenges could be upfront.
You’ll be in a much stronger position to anticipate potential challenges and more prepared to adjust when new information arises to keep the perceived value of your product or service high. Your customer feedback is your golden ticket to become irreplaceable.
No sales, account management professional, consultant or company wants a customer who simply sits on the status quo even if its your product or service. Eventually it leads to restlessness, and the question “Why are we still using them?”
The whole concept here is, what’s important to your client today may not be the same tomorrow, three months or a year from now. Start taking note not only on what your product or service does but also what your client and customers might need from you today.
How do we keep the perceived value of our product and service high?
- Deliver great results that are above expected norms
- Challenge assumptions and go speak to those in your clients business
- Ask hard questions to get to the truth of how your customers feel
- Be ready to adapt and shift by building internal collaboration and awareness around the value saturation concept
What can you begin to do to take advantage of this new knowledge?
As usual let me know your thoughts?
Jermaine - Your customer growth guide