In December 2012, we published the 12 Sales Trends Report for 2013 and released a brief summary of each trend. This month we are focusing on the sales trend, “Delivering real value beyond product and price”.
For many years most of a product’s value came from the production processes that converted raw material into useful forms. Now, real value is coming from supply chain logistics, partnership agreements, overall business improvements, shared innovations, technological improvements, styling features and other attributes that only people can create.
In the 21st century the intangible is now more valuable than the tangible. Products, services and technology can all be replicated by a competitor but people, ideas and relationships cannot. It is the intellect of our people, the creativity of our ideas and the depth of our relationships that must be fostered and there must be a clear relationship between these things and the brand. In other words, the organisation must be viewed as the source of these intangible qualities rather than the product.
This sales trend highlights that the real value of our offerings lies in intellectual property: the know-how and wisdom of our people and how they interact with our businesses and our markets. The bottom line is that if you don’t value intellectual property then you don’t value relationships, you don’t value ideas and you don’t value thinking. You are on the path to obsolescence.
For organisations to harness and deliver real value beyond product and price, there are three key areas to consider:
1. Tacit knowledge
Tacit knowledge represents the ‘know-how’ in an expert’s work, but it can be difficult to articulate. It typically becomes implanted in an individual’s routines and company’s culture and thus can remain hidden. There is incredible value residing in tacit knowledge and people can pay good money to access it.
2. The value chain
Smart companies know that their wisdom needs to be tracked right across their value chain, clients and suppliers. Savvy salespeople know the touch points where this knowledge is crucial and so do their internal stakeholders. The value lies in the educational journey across the entire value chain, not the product. It is the outcome and consistency that is produced as a result of the effective use of the value chain.
3. Company stories
If done well, it is the companies that become synonymous with these intangible qualities that are the most successful. Think Google, Nordstrom, Mayo Clinic or Mattel – all are known as creative, relationships-driven organisations that attract those sorts of people. Those intangible qualities built around ideas and relationships have found their ultimate expression in the form of a brand. Stories are then told about that brand to reinforce the value of their intellectual property and those stories trump every other product, price or service advantage an organisation might have.
A major transition for any sales team
This means that our sales teams need to transition from being walking talking product wikipedias to being business consultants and advisors who can confidently position the real value of their offering – namely, them and their organisation’s people, and their business partners/suppliers who genuinely know how to add value in real dollar terms.
This sales trend highlights how we need to harness the power of our thinking, our people and our stories to add value beyond our traditional products and services. Our sales teams and businesses need to be demonstrating our abilities to collaborate and work with our clients to make their lives easier, more effective, more efficient and less risky.
And the pleasant surprise is that more and more companies are beginning to see that people are prepared to pay a premium for this intangible because it brings comfort and consistency – something in short supply in the busy, hectic world we inhabit.
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations. Visit www.barrett.com.au