12th June 2017
The agent’s face lit up blue with each puff of her e-cigarette. We’d been negotiating hard for ten minutes, and she’d been chain-smoking the entire time. I was running out of time, and I needed this deal.
“One point four million dollars,” she said. “Not a penny less.”
A tiny puff of smoke flew from her lips with the words “point” and “penny.” I knew the negotiations were reaching an end. She was the agent for a faded rock star on the verge of a comeback. I had to secure a sixmonth contract for my record label. $1.4M was about what I expected to pay. We had a deal.
This was the scene at a sales negotiation course I attended some years ago. Eight of us were going through the same exercise to negotiate the deal to secure the rock star. After I ended my negotiations, we all went back inside to join the trainer.
“Put your hand up if you felt you got good value for your money,” the trainer said. Eight hands went up. “OK,” she said. “Let’s see the numbers. Calum, how much did the rock star cost you?”
“One point four million,” I said confidently.
“Good,” said the trainer as she wrote “$1.4M” on the board. “Next?” she asked.
One person did $1.5M. Another signed for $800K. The person across from me paid $2.4M! What was going on? Each total was radically different, yet we all felt we’d gotten good value from our deals.
It was fascinating. This is a great demonstration of how value is incredibly specific to an individual. In fact, value is so specific to the individual that it could even be described as something deeper: a feeling of value created by a situation. Here’s what I mean.
Top sellers everywhere strive to generate this deeper feeling of value inside their prospect’s mind. Each seller wants to be the one who offers the most value to a prospect. Sellers who do that have an unfair advantage over their competitors because they’ve found their value equation with their prospect.
Let’s use a simple example to illustrate how to find your value equation.
Imagine you’re bald (easy for me) and want to find a hair restoration procedure that really works. You’ve narrowed your search down to two clinics.
At the first clinic, the consultant shows you a picture of a smiling man with thinning hair. It’s a client after his treatment, and the clinician asks if you want to look just as happy.
At the second clinic, the consultant also shows you a picture of a customer. But this time, she shows you his picture before treatment. Your eyes light up because this person looks like you—he’s totally bald. She then shows you a second picture of the same person after treatment. The contrast is startling: your formerly bald twin is smiling, and has a reasonable head of hair. Your choice of clinic is clear.
But why? Both clinics had after treatment pictures of happy clients. The difference was in second clinic’s value equation. By taking the time to show the contrast between the before and after pictures, she showed you how much better your desired, headfull-of-hair future state will be if you chose them. The value equation is: “Future” State minus “Current” Situation equals contrast, which is your Absolute “Value” (FC=V).
Let’s go back to complex selling situations. Most prospects can’t really tell the difference between solutions because sellers only talk about the benefits. When you only talk about benefits, you leave it up to the customer to decide the value of what you’re selling. And, like the rock star deal we saw earlier, value is wildly different for each individual. To avoid this fate, you’ve got to create your value equation. To do this well, use the Three Magic Cs:
Care: Frame every conversation, proposal, and presentation in the context of your customer’s goals. When your customer hears you talking about what they want to achieve, you’ll engage their emotional mind and they’ll care about what you have to offer. You can do this by starting early conversations with: “You said you wanted to …” This also creates urgency.
Concrete: Don’t use abstract terms like “value” and “efficiency.” Replace them with concrete terms and images that your prospect can picture in their minds. Two concrete images you must identify are their current situation and the current situation’s anti-value. Show them how they are doing things currently, and then get them to acknowledge why that approach doesn’t work (this is usually the result of change in their world: What used to be OK isn’t anymore).
Contrast: Contrast your prospect’s current situation with a better situation, just like the hair clinic example. Show them what their current situation looks like. Let them see how they can’t achieve their goal that way, given the new business conditions they face. Contrast that with the results your solution will bring them.
The more contrast you show, the more value your prospect will see in you. And when you use the Three Magic Cs to create your value equation, you’ll link your value to your prospect’s goals, and you’ll really start value selling.
As for the hair clinic, skip it. In the 21st century, bald is beautiful.
Calum Kilgour is Founder & CEO of Slingshot Edge.