One of the hangovers from the legacy sales approaches is that the salesperson undervalues the sales conversation for what it is: the only vehicle for creating value, creating an opportunity, and winning the client's business. Because salespeople trained in the legacy approaches have been taught to believe the value is located elsewhere, they fail to participate in the sales conversation in a meaningful way.
Having recognized this more than a decade ago, I started sharing a slide that insists that "You are the value proposition." This idea confuses those who haven't already discovered it on their own.
Why Your Company Is Not the Value Proposition
Your company is a great company. It’s been around for a long time, and it has an excellent reputation within the industry. It also has an outstanding reputation among its clients, many of whom have been buying from it forever. It's even won awards from third parties, proving the company is best in class.
If the company were the value proposition, you would expect that a conversation explaining how great it is would score well when speaking with your prospective clients. But the company's history combined with the salesperson’s advertisement doesn't create any value for the client.
The CEO, Board, and Investors
Having relationships with a few CEOs, I can promise you they don't believe they should be included in any conversation with your clients. Talking about who is on your company's board of directors or who your investors are isn't going to wow anyone. As impressive as these people might be, the client is not going to consider this factor when deciding who to buy from.
If these impressive people your client will never meet were enough to create a preference to buy from you, the salesperson could stop right here, knowing the client knows will be comfortable enough to buy without delay. But no one has ever stopped a legacy approach salesperson to ask for a contract after learning about the CEO and directors, so it cannot be a value proposition.
Your Trophy Case of Logos
The incredibly large and well-recognized companies whose logos you share on a slide is proof positive that your company is outstanding. Why else would all these pillars of commerce choose to buy from your company? If your company and your products and services are good enough for these companies, you must be the safest of all choices.
The legacy approach salesperson will be disappointed when their prospective client says nothing after seeing a who’s who of great and noble companies. Unfortunately, there is only one logo the client is interested in, and it isn't in the salesperson's trophy case.
"The logo slide is like showing the person you are on a first date with a picture of your best-looking exes."
I have a secret to tell you: You don't have a solution. You have a product or a service. You only call it a solution because you have been taught to do so. The only reason we call a product a solution is because it is what you need if you have a problem.
You can make your client suffer through an explanation of how your solution is the best available and years ahead of any alternative. You can even talk about the science that makes the newest version the best ever created. This conversation isn't helpful in a first meeting and, depending on what you sell, it may not be relevant until much later. Even so, many salespeople believe their "solution" is the value proposition!
At this point, legacy salespeople have done everything they believe necessary to differentiate their company and their "solutions." They are certain this will cause the client to believe they are the right choice.
The Value Proposition Is the Salesperson and the Conversation
The value proposition can't be anything discussed to this point because none of them are in the room during the sales conversation. That leaves the salesperson—the salesperson is the value proposition. The decision-maker or stakeholders are hoping the salesperson can help them improve their company's results.
While sales organizations spend time perfecting a conversation that simply sucks up the client’s time, they spend far too little time creating value for the client inside the sales conversation, the only vehicle for creating a preference to buy from the salesperson's company. In fact, the salesperson is a representative of the company, and as such, their performance is the company's performance.
You can remove everything else in this article—the company; the CEO, board, and investors; the logos; and the “solution”—and the client will not ask you about any of it.
What Your Client Wants
Your prospective client wants to understand why they have the challenges they are facing. They want to understand the forces and factors that are at the root of those challenges. Many want help understanding the decision they need to make and what they need to consider. They also want help making the right change in the right way, ensuring the new outcomes they need.
The salesperson who wants to be consultative would do well to have a conversation that provides the client with the counsel, advice, and recommendations about their real challenges and questions.