After reading Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition, some people have reached out to me to share their results in scheduling meetings and starting strategic conversations with their dream clients. They’ve gotten the fundamental idea exactly right as it pertains to where to start a conversation, but have discounted the other levels of value.
If you don’t yet have the book, let me give you the shorthand version of the levels of value. Level 1 is the value found in your product or service. Level 2 is the value in the experience you create (think: serve, support, easy to do business with). Level 3 is the tangible results your solution provides, and Level 4 is the strategic outcomes you enable.
It’s easy to get excited about Level 4, and it’s more interesting and more engaging to talk about the strategic outcomes you can help generate—with the right audience. There are other stakeholders you need to serve, some of them who will benefit more from other levels of value. Here is how you might think about the conversation you might have and the value you created for different groups of stakeholders.
Level 1 Matters
If you go to the end user and start describing to them the strategic objectives their company should be pursuing, the conversation isn’t something over which they have any control, nor are they likely to have much influence. They’re busy trying to do their job. Just as you don’t want to lead with Level 1 value (product, features, benefits, etc.) with a member of executive leadership, you don’t want to do the reverse and share your view on strategic issues with someone who isn’t going to perceive that as helpful.
Level 2 Matters
Because we live in a world where we seek consensus in decisions and where what we do often touch different areas of the business, some stakeholders care about what it is going to be like to work with you and your company. They care about service, they care about your integration into their systems, and they care about getting the information they need from you, among other things. Even though many of these people may not use what you sell, it matters that you create this level of value.
Level 3 Matters
What is the point of selling the strategic outcomes if what you sell doesn’t produce the tangible results promised? Let’s say you sell services to ship things from point A to point B. If what you sell doesn’t provide that tangible outcome, the strategic advantage you want to create by helping control costs, increase profits, create a competitive advantage through some cover use of technology, is all for naught. Managers and leaders care deeply, and the whole organization is concerned about execution
You want to match the value you create for the stakeholders you are serving, from the beginning of the process all the way through your execution. As crucial as Level 4 is to creating a reason to change and its value in displacing a competitor, all of the levels are necessary and valuable to some groups of stakeholders.