Civil rights campaigner Maya Angelou once said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And it’s true – think back now to your best memories – your first day at school, your first kiss, a time when you did something amazing. I bet that moment was filled with emotion and feeling. You can probably remember a lot of detail about what happened – perhaps where you were, who you met, what the weather was like, even the sounds and smells. When you experience high states of emotion your brain releases chemicals that cause long term memories to be laid down.

Many sales people, and I’m talking about the skilled ones, only manage to generate a little bit of a feeling of value toward themselves and what they offer. I say only a little because many could position their offering in a way that makes it easy for their prospects to feel a much stronger sense of value about them and what the offer.

Most sales and marketing people focus on benefits. This seems very sensible. After all we’ve all been taught in sales 101 that people buy benefits right?

In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel prize winner Professor Daniel Khaneman shows with empirical evidence that people feel much more strongly about avoiding a loss than they do about achieving a gain.

Think of the last time you changed your job. Did you move towards it because of the great benefits? Some people will have. Or did you move away from your old job because some change came about that meant the good stuff was disappearing and you wanted to get away from that losing situation?

The reality about your prospects is that they are trying to evaluate you, which of course means they want to choose the seller who they trust, and who can deliver the most value to them. It turns out the biggest benefit people buy is the benefit of avoiding a loss – after all why else would a prospective customers take the risk of talking to a sales person, taking on a new supplier and implementing their potentially risky solution? Things must have become pretty bad for them to go through all that stress, hassle and risk. The reason they do it is because the loss they could experience by not doing anything is greater than the potential loss of hiring a new supplier.

By stopping focusing solely on benefits ie gains and instead focusing on total value i.e. avoidance of loss + gains, sellers and product marketers could help themselves by making it easier for their prospective customers to literally feel the value on offer.

If they did that then they could gain (or not lose?) from Maya Angelou’s prophecy.

What do you think – is value a feeling or is it something that can be worked out on a spreadsheet?

 


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