You and your client (or dream client) need to be right for each other. Your models need to match up, and your sales skills need to match up with the value that they need you to create.

Foundational Skills for Commodity Buyers

If you have only the foundational sales skills, you will know how to prospect, close, and pitch your client. You will have been trained to describe your products or service’s features and benefits. You will have learned to overcome objections.

How you sell will serve clients who are buying a good product or service. They will expect a good product and a good experience working with you and your company. They will also expect you to be knowledgeable about your product.

These clients won’t likely care about how different your product or service is, and they won’t expect you to be a level 4 value creator. You don’t need to be a strategic advantage. That would be a mismatch in value creation, and your client won’t likely pay for strategic when that value can’t be created. They buy commodities, and they treat their salespeople as vendors.

Foundational + for Business Results Oriented Clients

If you have been selling business-to-business for the last couple of decades, you know how to differentiate your product, service, or solution. You know how to diagnose your client’s needs. And you know how to negotiate an agreement that allows you to capture part of the value that you create. These skills are built on top of the foundational skills, so we can call them foundational + skills.

Having these skills will help you to sell to clients that are looking for some business result (level 3 value creation). Your ability to diagnose your client’s needs and propose a solution that generates a business result is exactly they need from you. They also need you to differentiate your approach and help them make the best choice of a number of solutions that might get them results. These were the skill sets of the early consultative sales people.

Clients in this segment won’t buy from you if you only have the foundational skill set. They need you to be bigger than that. But as long as they generate the results that they need from what you sell, they may not need you to be level 4 value-creator, a strategic advantage.

These clients treat their salespeople as partners. They share some information, and they prefer to have deep relationships.

New Consultative Sales Skills for Strategic Clients

The new skill sets required to sell to clients that are buying something more than commodities or a business result are more difficult to obtain and more rare. You need to have the business acumen of a great general manager, with some subject matter expertise in your business and some working knowledge of your client’s industry. You need more than the ability to diagnose; you have to have a much greater level of understanding. You need fingerspitzengeful (fingertip feel, a sixth sense).

You need to manage change. This means you need to ability to build consensus in your organization and in your clients. It also means you can help produce the results your client needs once you begin to execute and the real work of selling begins, sometimes selling more within your own company.

You also need the ability to lead a team. You are going to be handing off the client to your operations team, and you are going to be working with your client’s team. Leadership requires that you help others see the vision and take the actions that get them there.

You need these skills because your client expects you to own the outcome that you sold them. You are in the foxhole with them.

When your client needs you to be a level 4 value-creator, they need you to be someone who can think and develop the ideas that continually move their business forward. They need you to be an active part of their management team. They need you to see around corners and guide them.

Possessing only the foundational and foundational + skill sets makes you a mismatch for clients that need a strategic partner. These clients will pay more for you to be that strategic advantage because of what you know and the results that you can help them produce.

If you need to be strategic, create the right value for your clients and nothing less.


How do your skills match up with the value that you need to create for your clients?

Do you have prospects who need a lower level of value creation from you? How does this mismatch effect your sales and your pricing?

Do you have clients that need or expect a higher level of value creation from you? What skills do you need to have to create that value?

What mismatches in skills and client needs have you noticed?

Sales 2012
Post by Anthony Iannarino on May 1, 2012
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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