Could the best way to increase sales be to NOT sell? Instead, add value?
Yes. And yes.
Sales pros who add value to existing or budding relationships can win sales down the road.
And right now, customers might be putting off purchase decisions because of uncertain times. Or they’re scaling operations until they’re confident of what the future holds. Those are valid concerns and legitimate actions.
So it’s vital for salespeople and their organizations to stay top of mind when customers aren’t buying.
“How does the buyer view the value (you) deliver?” says Mike Schultz,
President, RAIN Group “Is it breakthrough—have we made a huge, game-changing impact on their business? Is it major—have we made a measurable and worthwhile impact on their business? Something else? Note that if you have made an impact, but the client can’t articulate it, then the client may not value it.”
The key to adding value now – and always – isn’t just passing along something you think is valuable. Customers and prospects need to see or feel the value so they maintain the relationship and buy in the future.
Here’s how eight sales pros and organizations successfully added value and strengthened relationships – plus ways you can use their ideas to reach your goals.
Train salespeople, share with customers
At Upland Software, sales and marketing leaders add value by educating customers and sales staff when buying demand drops.
“It’s tough at the moments when no one is spending time on the road with customers,” says Nigel Cullington, Head of Marketing for the Revenue Optimization Business Unit at Upland Software. “So we focus on letting salespeople invest in themselves – and that investment helps customers.”
They produce fresh training videos and new white papers for salespeople to study – and pass on when the information is relevant in helping customers improve their businesses. They also offer refresher training to their team on sales methodology. Then Upland Software passes those training materials onto their customers, who can share them with their sales teams to help them sell better.
“You can gain trust and continue to build relationships with valuable content, and you don’t need to be together to do that,” Cullington says.
Find and share out-of-box information
You can add value by sharing information beyond your usual realm.
“If your customers are feeling pain and if you can help them with good, valuable, contextual information that will benefit them, do it. Even if the information is outside of your business.” says Howard Spector, CEO of SimplePractice.
At SimplePractice, an electronic health record and practice management software provider, sales professionals, customer service reps and even the CEO talk with customers regularly. They take an “all hands on deck” approach to service. Everyone in the company goes to customer service boot camp when onboarding. Then they handle a few customer contacts at least once a week.
That keeps them all in touch with customers’ needs. Then they can share valuable information on things unrelated to their business. For example, they’ve shared tax updates and links because many customers use a tax software.
Scrub your knowledge
One way to improve relationships is to be sure the information customers and prospects find and receive is current and relevant.
Bill Price, President of Driva Solutions, suggests pulling together front line sales and service employees, developers and even some customers to build up your knowledge management system – what he calls Knowledge Sharing (KS)².
How does this add value? Customers want knowledge and answers that help them immediately. When the knowledge base is up to date and easy to navigate, customers find the right answers faster and efficiently. Then they see their relationship with the company more positive.
Partner to help customers
You don’t have to help customers directly to add value. Many companies partner with charities to help the communities where customers and prospects live and work.
Sheryl Greene, author of Do Good to Do Better: The Small Business Guide to Growing Your Business by Helping Nonprofits, suggests partnering with a non-profit or special cause in your community or industry that aligns with your company’s core values. Find out what the non-profit needs. It might be time, money or resources you have readily available – including unused facilities or capabilities.
Then let your customers and prospects know what you’ve done – not to tout your goodwill. Instead, invite them to also help. Or let them know about the resources the non-profit provides so they or people they know can access those if they need it.
Create and facilitate groups
Sometimes, customers and prospects need to connect with people like them, who face similar challenges. But many don’t have all the connections because they’re so busying trying to overcome their hurdles they can’t network as they should.
Give something valuable by creating social media groups – in Facebook or on LinkedIn – that includes your customers and prospects. Invite people in similar industries, of similar size and/or facing the same challenges, suggests Colby Flood, Owner, Brighter Click. Send invitations to join and schedule short “meetings” where you can facilitate conversations based on questions they submit to you.
One caveat: Avoid monopolizing the conversation and selling solutions. Let the group share, commiserate and resolve themselves.
Your customers’ and prospects’ industries have probably changed drastically recently and/or gradually over the last decade. Strategies, best-practices and trends that were relevant a year ago probably aren’t now. But customers and prospects are trying to meet day-to-day challenges, and they can’t think too much about the future.
That’s where you can create more value. Regularly figure out the top two or three things customers and prospects are worried about and should be worried about.
- stay on top of customers’ blogs
- read all RSS feeds related to your field, and
- dedicate 30 minutes each day to browsing LinkedIn discussions for hot topics and concerns.
Let customers know what you’re seeing. More importantly, give some suggestions on how to stay ahead of the negative things and capitalize on the positives.
Find or create something new
Customers and prospects may not need what they have in the past. So perhaps the best way sales professionals can add value is to find or create something new that can help them now.
“Try and pivot right now,” Dan Martini, VP of Congressional relations and public policy for the American Bankers Association. “Try to develop something new. It’s along three channels: It’s what I sell, who I sell it to and how I sell it. So it’s product and service line. It’s my customer base and also how I deliver.”
You don’t need to just come up with brand new products and services for customers. Come up with new ways to deliver or service products, different ways to handle terms and deals – anything that can help customers now.
Get savvy with video
Salespeople can do a lot with video to add value to customer relationships. In fact, about 70% sales and marketing pros swear by the power of videos, according to MotionCue research.
Experts at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggested:
- Use free tools such as Skype or Zoom for a Q&A on how to get the most out of solutions customers already use. Or set up weekly times you’re available for customers to log in ask whatever is on their minds.
- For more protected information, you might start a Vimeo Channel that allows customers to pay a small fee for access. For instance, attorneys might give specific legal advice. Accountants might detail how to do a complicated tax return. Or an engineer might walk through product troubleshooting.
- Host an online event that’s more entertainment than education. Customers need a break. Laughter and enjoyment are priceless when it comes to adding value. Try a Facebook or Instagram Live Event to celebrate a business anniversary, or give a behind-the-scenes look at operations. In those, some of your more animated colleagues can make comical appearances.