A long time ago, I formulated a rule for prospecting—the Trading Value Rule—that extends far beyond acquiring a meeting with your dream client. In fact, it applies to every commitment and every client conversation. Those who do not trade value are doomed to failed pitches and results far below their potential.
The Trading Value Rule
Imagine that you lived thousands of years ago. To acquire the things you needed to survive, you had to walk to the bazaar. Let's say you needed eggs because you didn’t have chickens. Because you did have goats, you would carry goat's milk with you to the bazaar, so you could trade something valuable to someone else—and acquire something valuable to you.
The reason we went back in time is to stress just how ancient this principle of trading value for value is. Yet somehow it seems unknown to most modern grown-ups, including those whose business cards brag that they work in professional B2B sales. By overlooking this principle, they make it damn near impossible to consistently schedule meetings, pitch prospective clients, and achieve their desired sales outcomes.
Why Your Pitch for a Meeting Fails
Imagine a salesperson calls you to schedule a meeting. In their pitch, they offer to tell you about their company, list other companies in your industry that they are already helping, and learn a little about you and your business.
This approach might appeal to a very lonely person, one so devoid of human connection that they would agree to any meeting just for the companionship. But it repels actual busy decision-makers, who hear nothing in the pitch that indicates they will be better off for having met with the salesperson. There is no value being traded for the client's time.
When Your Pitch for a Next Meeting Fails
Once you do secure and execute a first meeting, there’s a critical variable to moving forward: whether your client found your first meeting valuable. An inability to create value for your contact will all but ensure that you will not get another bite at the apple. But having delivered that value, you give yourself an excellent chance at a metaphorical second date.
You further improve your chances when you can explain to your client the new and greater value you will create in future meetings. You are asking your prospective client for a chance to move closer to helping them with the better results they need. In turn, your client needs advice, insight, and counsel that will benefit them as they pursue greater outcomes. The greater your value to your client, the greater your chances of earning another meeting.
Why Your Product Pitch Fails
A group of young hustlers continually annoy me with phone calls and text messages. Because they are young, they are all hat and no cattle. They are also a never-ending source of amusement as they only know how to pitch, not recognizing the principle of trading value. Recently, they called me to invite me to four webinars. Tragically, they could not describe what I might gain from attending said webinars. Since nobody attends webinars for the snacks, my response was a hard no.
Each hapless and helpless salesperson was unaware that it was his responsibility to inform me how my life would be improved by the incredible opportunity to join these webinars. One way to jettison your own product pitch is to assume that its value is self-evident. Sales is hard—don’t make it harder on yourself by ignoring the trading value rule.
Learning from Toddlers
It’s tough to be young—simultaneously smarter and more ignorant than just about everyone—but sometimes the problem is that you’re, ahem, slightly older than you once were. Watch any four-year-old child at bedtime and you will see a wonderful example of great salesmanship. The wee wonder will negotiate to stay up a little longer, promising that they'll go right to sleep after they watch one more show on their parent's iPad. A child able to execute this value trade for a mere 20 minutes of animated pandas will do well in life.
How is it that a child already knows to trade something of value to their parents? They know full well that their parents have no desire to cap off a long day of work by negotiating with an insufferably cute terrorist, one capable of launching a total meltdown in a matter of minutes. And so the little tyke instinctively learns what takes some grownups four years of business school: "if you do this, you can have that."
As we mature, we somehow start believing that the value of what we are offering is apparent to others, so we get lazy. After all, if our product or service is the best thing since the sliced bread app, why bother offering anything but a “click here to buy” button?
Pitch Value, Not Products
Selling is built on the principle that you must trade value. It's how commerce works, especially where there is a free exchange between two parties who both need something from each other.
You would do well to pitch the value your prospective client gains from engaging with you and eventually buying from you. Pitching what the client stands to gain makes it easier for them to recognize the value they capture. This is why it's important to start conversations with what your prospective client needs in the way of outcomes, instead of sharing the joys and wonders of your product, service, or venerably disruptive company. By prioritizing this principle and following the Trading Value Rule, you will improve your results.