“Add Value”? Or Just Solve a Problem

I hate the consultant-speak phrase “add value” as in “that rep didn’t add any value to the relationship.”   Often it’s just another way of saying, “I didn’t learn anything from that salesman,” or “he didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know,” or more importantly, “she didn’t help me solve my problems.” 

The ability to solve your clients’ and prospects’ problems is a big differentiator for you and your company, but many reps and consultants lack an approach for how to do it.  Today and next week I’ll give you two models for helping you to solve problems, both organizationally and personally.  Today we will focus on the client’s organizational issues.

At the big picture level you should try to learn first about the company’s mission and goals.  Don’t bother with their strategy; that’s for McKinsey and others. Just get at “What are you trying to do and what goals have you assigned to this effort?”

Next, inquire about the processes used to achieve these goals.  There will be several, beginning with how customers are contacted, how customers contact the company, how applications are reviewed, underwriting processes, relationships with back-office staff, to name a few. Example:  An insurance company uses a poor process for identifying desirable prospects in the marketplace, which causes their sales reps to chase poor leads. (More on investigating the processes in next week’s sequel.)

Your next subject area is capacity.  Does the company have the capacity in employees or machinery to achieve the desired outcome?  Example:  A bank promises 24-hour turnaround on small business loans, but uses the same underwriting process as for large loans, so underwriters don’t have the capacity to keep the advertising promise.

Now here is a big one.  Investigate human motivation.  If people are part of the problem, ask “why would anyone do it like this in the first place?”  This is not about incentive comp.  It’s about all the human inhibitors to performance, such as getting yelled at for doing what you are supposed to do, or not being given any form of recognition, to cite just two areas.  Competent sales management is a key area of inquiry. When it’s absent, you can be sure performance will be poor.

And finally, find out if the people have the requisite knowledge and skill to do the job well.  As a training consultant, I am often asked to solve problems in this area, the client assuming that everything will improve if we just train the people, ignoring the other contributing factors.

So your sequence is:

1.        Mission and Goals

2.       Work Processes

3.       Capacity

4.       Motivation

5.       Knowledge and Skill

So let’s get rid of the phrase “add value” and just call it helping people out.  Put yourself in your clients’ shoes and relieve them of some stress. They’ll love you for it, and it’s a great way to…

Think Like Your Customer

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About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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