Since publishing Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition, I have more than a dozen times been asked if one can start at Level 1 (the value of your product or service alone) and grow into Level 4 (the value in strategic outcomes). The salespeople who ask this question want to first sell their prospective clients their product and then develop a relationship that would allow them to provide their advice over time, the difficulty of which you find in the question itself.
That question is not the question most people ask me outside of Eat Their Lunch and Level 4 Value. The all-time most often asked question is, “How do I compel my prospective clients to take action? How do I motivate them?” The questions are the same question, stated differently.
Starting Too Low
To believe that you can start at Level 1 is to believe that your product is the compelling reason your prospective client should buy whatever it is you sell. In some cases, this is true. Your competitor’s product may be failing them, and your product might be so much better that some of the people you call on buy from you. But the more likely scenario is that as good as your product is, it’s not enough for your dream client to change suppliers—or make all the other changes that might come with a new solution. When you pitch your product devoid of higher levels of value, not only do you not provide a compelling reason to change, you also look like a commodity.
Starting With Change
Starting conversations at Level 4, with insights and ideas about strategic outcomes, allows you to position the value you create through the lens that provides a compelling reason to change. By sharing ideas about why your prospective client might consider change, you are positioning your solution as something that can help them respond to an opportunity for better results or avoiding or dealing with some challenge (and in many cases, your dream clients are already feeling the ill effects of forces that should be causing them change but haven’t yet been compelled to take action). Changing to your product is now seen through a different lens because of the context you provided.
The Right to Consult
Now to answer the question, “What gives one the right to consult?” When one has an idea that will benefit the client, when they know enough to offer that advice in context of the client’s situation, and when they are willing to do the work to make sure the client benefits from taking the advice. If this were not true, you would have a difficult time being consultative-and a difficult time selling anything at all.