Sales reps love to talk about the features of the products or services they sell — and why wouldn’t they? Those features are usually what helps them stand out from a crowd of competitors.
But while new product developments or flashy technology might be the thing that initially grabs a prospect’s attention, it’s rarely the reason they choose to buy. At the end of the day, prospects want to know how their purchase will change their life. In other words, what value buying the new product or service will bring.
Boasting about product features has its place in the sales process, but in order to create long-lasting customer relationships and develop loyal customers, you need to adopt a value selling framework.
What is a value selling framework?
A value selling framework (sometimes referred to as value-based selling) is a customer-centric sales method that focuses on benefits, not features. While the features often go hand-in-hand with the benefits, a value selling framework clearly shows a prospect how the tools, technology, or systems behind the product they buy will improve their life.
Here’s an example. Imagine you’re selling cars at a dealership. Your prospect only has a surface-level knowledge of cars, but they know they want something safe, reliable, and good on gas.
Showing off the car’s heated leather seats, backup camera, or state-of-the-art entertainment system probably isn’t enough to close the deal. It might spark their interest in the car, but all the fancy features won’t matter if the car can’t reliably get them from Point A to Point B.
With value-based selling, you would act as a consultant to your prospect. You’d learn about where they intend to drive the car, how many passengers they consistently have, what their price range is, and more. You might even ask what fears or concerns they have about purchasing a new vehicle, and if there are any particular outcomes they want to achieve, like ensuring it lasts for years or reaches hundreds of thousands of miles.
Once you better understand the “why” behind your prospect’s purchase, you can make a recommendation that aligns with their needs. In other words, you can point your prospect to the product that will benefit them the most or bring the most value to their life.
Why use a value selling framework?
Value selling requires more effort from your sales team. They need to spend more time getting to know their prospects and think strategically and logically about the product recommendations they make. But even so, value-based selling can create customer loyalty and long-term relationships with buyers.
When you base sales recommendations on value, you’re showing the customer that you truly care about their success and well-being. Making sure they make the right purchase is the most important thing to you — even if it means they choose a less expensive product or even a competitor’s product.
This is particularly true when selling high price products. The larger the price tag, the more confirmation a prospect will need that the purchase is worth their money. A value selling framework allows you to build confidence in your prospect that their return will be worth their investment.
How to create a value selling framework
Ready to create a value selling framework of your own? Here are five steps to get started.
1. Believe what you’re selling
Our customers are smart. They pick up on lies and exaggerations — and if they believe you’re being dishonest in your pitch, they’re not likely to buy from you or come back to purchase again.
With value-based sales, you need to believe the story behind your pitch. If you don’t believe what you’re selling has value, then why would your prospects?
Get familiar and comfortable with the product you’re selling. Find ways to implement it in your day-to-day life, or play around with it to get familiar with how it could be used in different scenarios. Go beyond just the sales training materials — finding a unique, authentic connection with the product you're selling will come through when you’re talking to prospects.
Answer these questions for yourself:
- What is the biggest benefit of using this product?
- How does it compare to competitors?
- What do I really enjoy about this product? Where do I think it could improve?
- Who would find the most value from this product? Who might not find this product valuable?
- What other areas of my life could this product improve?
While some of these answers might be written out in your sales materials, find your own perspective. This will make it easier to connect during sales conversations.
2. Know your customer
Value-based selling has to be personal. While you might find a particular component or benefit of the product valuable, your prospect might have completely different needs — meaning you can’t pitch the same use case to all your potential customers.
In addition to getting to know your product, you need to get to know your customer. Understanding the unique perspectives, challenges, and needs of your prospect will help you connect on a deeper level (leading to a more genuine relationship).
Here are three kinds of customer research you can do to improve your value selling framework:
Develop customer personas
Creating hypothetical prospects based on your various groups of customers can help you prepare before a sales conversation even starts. Customer personas tell you who a person is, what they value, where they’re being challenged, and what solutions they’re looking for.
With this knowledge, you can then develop value-based use cases to refer back to when a new prospect comes to you for guidance. Explore the product as if you were in their shoes — what benefits would be most appealing to you or what value would you need to see in order to buy?
Here are some questions that can get you started:
- Who is my ideal customer?
- What is this person struggling with?
- How can this product help them solve those challenges?
- Why is solving this problem important to them?
- How is this problem creating additional challenges for them in other areas of their life?
- What is the most important thing this person wants to accomplish?
- What is most valuable to this person?
While customer personas are loosely based and won’t always line up perfectly with the prospects you see in real selling scenarios, this kind of exercise gives you a leg up when meeting with someone new.
Research your prospect
Once you know who you’ll be meeting with, you can spend some time learning more about them before your initial conversation. Doing a little research before you meet ensures you’re prepared to answer the questions they might have and highlight the benefits you believe will be most important to them.
Take a look at their social media profiles, check common connections, and look into major concerns people in their job role, industry, or demographic are dealing with. You may not be able to gather much, but it’s never a good idea to go into a sales meeting blind.
Take a look at the questions you answered when creating your customer persona and try to answer them more specifically for this individual. Here are some additional questions you should be able to answer before your first conversation with a prospect:
- What unique challenges or opportunities is this person facing in their job or industry?
- Who else would need to find value in my product in order to buy (i.e. who are the other decision-makers?)
- What does the future of their industry look like?
Ask a lot of questions
When it’s finally time to sit down with your prospect, don’t just jump right to the pitch. Be ready to ask them questions about themselves and their situation. Spend time getting to know your prospect so when the time comes to recommend a product, you know it’s the best option for them.
Here are some questions to get you started:
- What is the biggest challenge you’re dealing with?
- How do you expect purchasing this product will help you improve or solve that challenge?
- What outcome would need to happen for you to see the purchase as successful?
- What solutions have you already tried? Why didn’t they work?
- What other solutions are you considering? What do you find appealing about those solutions?
It’s not likely your prospect will buy after your first conversation, especially if it’s a high price item. So, be sure not to let the conversation die down after they leave your office or you hang up the phone. Come up with follow-up questions for your later conversations so you can really drill down the best option for them. Researching and getting to know your customer is necessary throughout the entire sales process.
Pro tip: Use the SPICED framework (a 5-step system that outlines the Situation, Pain, Impact, Critical Event, and Decision a prospect follows) to make sure you cover all your bases when getting to know your customer.
3. Don’t sell — teach
It may seem counterproductive not to sell when closing a deal is ultimately your end goal. But with value-based sales, teaching your prospects can have a much greater impact.
Teaching or showing your prospect how your product will solve the challenges they mentioned or make their lives easier can help back up your claims. When they can see the product in motion or even take it for a spin themselves, they can really start to imagine using it in their daily lives.
There are many different ways you can teach prospects how to use your product. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Product demonstrations. Show your prospect exactly how you use your product. Either live or in pre-recorded videos, you can let them see the product in action to really understand the benefits.
- Webinars. Webinars are a great way to dive deep into a particular use case for a product. Live webinars allow you to gather questions from prospects in the moment, or pre-recorded webinars give prospects the benefit of tuning in on their own time.
- Free trials. Giving prospects a chance to try the product before they buy can make them more confident in their decision. It’s a low-investment way to get familiar with your product without a ton of pressure.
Once your prospect is confident in your product’s abilities, the rest of the sales process will go even smoother.
4. Prioritize thoughtful interactions
Nagging prospects into buying doesn’t work. If you’re constantly calling, emailing, and flooding them with messages asking if they’re ready to make a purchase, you’re just going to drive them away.
But this doesn’t mean you should disappear until your prospect comes to you. Instead you can focus on thoughtful, intentional interactions. Have a goal or purpose for every outreach. It might be to see if they have any questions for you or a follow-up on a question they’d asked you previously.
Here’s an example of a thoughtful outreach message template:
Hi [Prospect Name],
Hope you’re doing well! I’ve attached our team’s most recent ebook on [topic]. This should answer some of your questions on [concerns you’ve discussed] — there’s a great infographic on [page number] that I think would be really insightful.
Happy to schedule a call if you want to talk through any concerns. I’m available [date].
While the ultimate goal of this message is to bring the prospect further down the sales cycle, it does so by offering helpful information and resources about a topic you’ve already discussed.
Before you hit “send” think about what value you’re bringing to the customer by reaching out. If you’re just trying to get in touch to move the sales process along faster, don’t send that message.
5. Stay human
When you get caught up in closing the deal, it’s easy to forget that the person on the other end isn’t just another transaction. But if you let yourself get too wrapped up in making a sale, all the trust you worked on building will be lost.
Throughout the entire value-based sales process remember one thing — you’re both human. Your goal is to help your prospect improve their life, even when the outcome isn’t the one you hoped for.
Remaining genuine, personable, and friendly throughout the entire process can lead to long-term relationships and connections whether this prospect becomes a customer or not. Even if your product didn’t end up being the right solution for them, if they were treated with respect and enjoyed working with you, they’re likely to refer friends, family, and coworkers in similar situations to you.
A value selling framework can improve prospect experience, build stronger customer relationships, and even make your job a little more fun — and it’s easy to implement. In your next conversation with a prospect, ask how can I bring value to this customer? With that goal at the forefront, you might be surprised at how easy selling becomes.