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Good salespeople know that prospects don't care about features. They care about value. A demo that's a recitation of product features won't result in a sale -- it'll just bore everyone in the room. Better to steer clear of specific elements, and instead emphasize the overall value of your product or service to the prospect. 

But even this approach might be a bit too broad. According to new research from CEB, B2B buyers perceive three types of value in a product -- and they don't regard each equally.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, authors Brent Adamson, Karl Schmidt, and Anna Bird revealed the three value sources buyers pick up on in a sales process:

  • Company value 
  • Professional value
  • Identity value

Company value is the benefits a product or service can provide on an organizational level. Professional value pertains to the career leverage a particular stakeholder could stand to gain through the implementation and/or ongoing use of an offering.

While savvy sales reps already address both of these areas of value, the third -- identity value -- is less talked about.

"Identity value describes the ways an offering might impact how employees perceive themselves by, for example, boosting their pride, helping them win respect, or strengthening their sense of community," according to the HBR article. "This third category is distinct from the other two. It is less about 'how the firm does' or 'what I do' than 'who I am.'"

So which type of value is most valued by buyers? CEB found that stakeholders who perceived high identity value as opposed to company or professional value were far more likely to advocate for the product or service. With this in mind, salespeople would be smart to spend some time connecting the dots between their product and the personalities of their prospects.

This isn't to say reps should focus on identity value exclusively. The authors emphasized that all three types of value drive sales and help to create consensus among stakeholders. 

"But if you fail to inspire individual customer stakeholders with the promise of identity value -- qualities of your offering that enhance their sense of self -- they may not step forward to advocate for you," Adamson, Schmidt, and Bird wrote. "And without them, it will be an uphill battle getting the consensus you need for a purchase."

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Originally published Apr 7, 2015 9:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Persuasion in Sales