There are a number of topics you might share with your contacts in the sales conversation they find to be immensely valuable to them, especially when what you share enables them to make the best decision for their company and their results. While these topics create value for your prospective clients, there are a number of things you might talk about that create "anti-value," the idea that you are creating the opposite of value.
The value of some of these topics is subject to timing—some being more valuable early in the conversation and others being better suited to later conversations. Because we have been practicing the legacy approaches much longer than the modern sales approaches, salespeople mostly reverse the order of these conversations.
Value in Early Conversations
Correcting Information Disparity: One way you create value for your contacts in early conversations is by correcting their information disparity. By correcting their information disparity, you help your client know what they don't know. This helps them make better decisions and produce better results. If your client already knows everything that you know, you will not create value for them. They also won’t need you.
Explaining the Environment: You are supposed to believe your client is paying attention to all the same things you are, something that isn't often true. Your client is an expert in their business, and they expect you to be an expert in yours. When you explain what's going on in the world and how it will affect your contact's results, you are creating value for them by providing them with a higher resolution lens through which to their business. Without the ability to catch your client up on what they need to know, you create too little value.
Replacing False Assumptions: By the time you meet your contacts for the first time, they will have a set of experiences that provided them with assumptions that were true when they acquired them, but are now outdated. Many of your prospective clients will need to update their assumptions to improve their results. An inability to recognize and understand their false assumptions will make it more difficult to have a conversation about "why change?"
Executing a Paradigm Shift: One of the most powerful ways you create value for your contacts is by helping them with a paradigm shift, one that shows them that the way they have done things in the past has been replaced. You can think of this as being something like discovering the world isn't flat or that the sun circles the earth and not the other way around. If you can't explain what's changed and what new action it requires, you miss the opportunity to create value. This is where you differentiate yourself and your approach.
Exploring Change: In early conversations, your contacts are interested in exploring change. It's easy to engage clients in the exploration of change, but more difficult to gain the Commitment to Change. These conversations are part of discovery, and most salespeople have little trouble creating the value of exploring change.
Anti-Value in Early Conversations
Qualifying: There are no prospective clients with contacts that enjoy you vetting them to see if they are a waste of your time. Asking questions about authority, budget, needs, and how soon they can buy is revolting. It is anti-value.
Excessive Rapport Building: The more you try to develop a relationship without first creating value for your contacts, the more you project you are a timewaster. The new rapport building is a business conversation, with the rapport coming after conducting a conversation that creates value for your contacts. Too much rapport is anti-value creation.
The History of your Company: No one wants a history lesson on the origin of your company and your amazing, thoughtful, visionary CEO. Fewer still are into cartography, with little interest in mapmaking and your locations, or a picture of your office building. Your contact hopes you are interested in a conversation about better results. This is pure, unadulterated anti-value.
Sharing your products and your services: You can guess your contact knows what you sell when they agreed to meet with you. They were not playing "sales rep roulette," inviting random salespeople to meet with them so they could be surprised to discover what they sell. Anti-value and a little pitchy.
Sharing Logos of your Existing Clients: Your client list is of no value to your contacts. The idea here is that you will be credible by borrowing your company's credibility. But showing people logos can’t create value for your decision-makers and decision-shapers as it pertains to improving their results, which means you created anti-value.
Poor Questions: Asking any question with an answer you might have discovered by looking at your client's website is certain to be anti-value.
An Inability to Answer Why Change: Without speaking to "why change," you are essentially pitching. Your need for a deal isn't a reason for your client to buy whatever you sell. The absence of a compelling reason to change is anti-value.
Directly Asking Questions Designed to Expose a Problem: Imagine your client has met with your three strongest competitors, each asking questions to elicit a problem. How long before they think, "isn't there someone who understands our business?" The perfectly commoditized discovery process is anti-value.
Value in Late Conversations:
Facilitating the Buyer’s Journey: As you leave the early stage of the sales conversation, facilitating the buyer's journey creates value for your contacts. When more than half of the companies that try to change fail, ensuring they successfully complete their journey is of serious value.
Building Consensus: Part of the buyer's journey is building consensus, an outcome with a difficulty of ten out of ten. You might believe your client needs to do this work, but without your help, they will most likely fail. Consensus creates an incredibly high level of value.
Creating Certainty: The ability to create certainty of positive outcomes is valuable, as your client has more at risk than you do. Your ability to resolve all concerns is helpful and scores well on the value continuum.
How Are Company's Resources Ensure Results: To make a conversation about your company relevant to your client, explain how your company is best positioned to ensure your client will produce better results. This is the best way to talk about your company.
Proof Providers: Your client logos provide you with the ability to share stories about how some of your clients had similar goals around the results you are helping them improve and what you did to ensure they succeeded.
Anti-Value in Late Conversations
Why Change: The problem with the legacy approach is that it doesn't do enough to answer, "why change?" The legacy approach would have you believe that the “problem” itself is enough to compel the client to change, even though pipelines are stuffed with deals where the client didn't buy because they didn't commit to change, but was happy enough to explore change.
Not Facilitating the Buyer's Journey: How can you expect a person that buys what you sell every five or seven years to know how best to pursue the change they need to improve their results. Expecting the client to know what they need to do and when they need to do it is anti-value because you should be leading your clients.
Not Creating Certainty Where There is Uncertainty: Treating objections as obstacles instead of real concerns that need to be resolved leaves uncertainty in place. The anti-value of leaving concerns in place is how deals are lost.