Innovation : Selling to the Value Driven Buyer
Robert B. Tucker is president of The Innovation Resource, and an internationally recognized leader in the field of innovation. Formerly an adjunct professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, Tucker has been studying innovators and innovative companies since l981.
His pioneering research in interviewing over 50 leading innovators was published in the book "Winning the Innovation Game" in l986. Since then, he has continued to publish widely on the subject, including his international bestseller, "Managing the Future: 10 Driving Forces of Change for the New Century", which has been translated into 13 languages.
Contact Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org
Excerpted from the book Customer Service for the New Millennium by Robert B. Tucker, ( Career Press 1997 ). Tucker is one of the USA's top innovation experts and a leading sales and management speaker. Details at www.innovationresource.com.
Your customers are demanding more, yet looking for ways to pay less. You're facing new and hungrier competitors. You're being challenged as never before to differentiate your firm's products in a "commodity" market. And you're not alone.
A seismic shakeup-a revolution-is altering the relationship between buyers and sellers. Many sales people assume lowering prices is the only solution. But what buyers are actually looking for is better value, better solutions to their problems, rather than doing business with the low-cost provider. While your prices must be competitive, smart companies are focusing more keenly than ever on their value-added services to win and keep customers. Use these proven strategies to differentiate your selling efforts no matter what you sell.
Take on the Customer's Problem
Powerful things begin to happen when you go beyond merely trying to sell your products or services and become the customer's consultant, problem-solver, coach, cheerleader and partner.
Example: Don Tyson, of Tyson Foods, first sold the idea of Chicken McNuggets to McDonalds by thinking about how adding chicken to their menu, would improve their bottom line. He studied each potential objection McDonalds could have with the McNuggets such as: product development, manufacturing, shipping and delivery. He solved each potential problem before approaching McDonalds. Tyson Foods is now the sole supplier of Chicken McNuggets and is the supplier of poultry products to 88 of the top 100 restaurant chains in the nation. Value Challenge: What key problems do your customers face in succeeding in their work, and how can you help solve those problems ?
Make the Customer's Life Easier
Every business has a "convenience quotient." The customer calculates it by dividing his or her desire for fulfillment by the hassle and annoyance that must be endured to do so. Are you easy to do business with ? Offer an extra measure of user-friendliness and you have added value to today's harried consumer.
Example: Bill Kelley, of Plymouth Rock Assurance Company, noticed that the only thing his clients hated more than getting in an automobile accident was the claims process. So he set out to make the process easier on his clients. He got his own 1-800 number so his clients could call him directly from the scene. He would travel out to the fender-bender, assess the damages, calculate the costs of repair on his laptop, and issue a check to take to the auto body shop of your choice. Average time to receive the check after Fireman Bill was on scene . . 20 minutes. Value Challenge: What can you do to make the part of your customer's life they spend with you, easier ?
Empower the Customer with Knowledge
This is frequently the most cost-effective way to add value for customers. Often overlooked is the need for creativity rather than large marketing expenditures. Consider ways to shift your focus from selling product to selling solutions. In what ways can educating your customers be turned into your strategic advantage ?
Example: Jim Miller, of Miller Office Systems ( Ft. Worth, TX ), holds customer seminars on avoiding carpal tunnel syndrome, a repetitive-motion condition resulting from improper use of computer keyboards and other office equipment. After attending, his clients have a much better understanding of how to increase comfort and office productivity, while reducing medical costs arising from on the job injuries. Value Challenge: What creative ways can you educate your customers regarding your products and services ?
Manage the Customer's Complexity
What if you can't differentiate on the basis of unique products or better prices ? Then create unique value-adding services that ingrain yourself in your customer's life. One way is by taking on unpleasant or complex tasks for the customer. Investigate how to reduce your customer's aggravation and costs at the same time. In the process, you'll become indispensable.
Example: John Titus, of F.D. Titus & Sons ( City of Industry, CA ), a highly profitable health care products distributor, realized his clients, doctors, value spending their precious time with their patients, not managing their inventory. So John offered to do it for them, but he didn't stop there, he even went so far as to have his products delivered right into the various departments within clinics and remove the packaging materials! In exchange, customers agree to swing all their business to Titus, at negotiated prices. Value Challenge: What aspect of your product or service causes your customer's business or life to be more complex, and what can you do to manage it ?
Provide Greater Responsiveness
Revolution-winning salesman eliminate customer waiting by challenging time-based assumptions-that is, the time between the customer's saying, "I want to purchase" and when the customer takes possession of the product or receives the service. Customer's gravitate to salesman who value their customer's time.
Example: Dr. Neil Baum, a New Orleans urologist, guarantees that if a patient is still waiting after 20 minutes of the scheduled appointment, he waives the charge for the visit. Value Challenge: What kind of time based assumptions do you have, and what can you do to show your customer's you value their time ?
Involve the Customer in Creating Value
Many salesman fail to ask their customer's what they value most in the product or service they provide, often relying on what they've heard or read. All too often customers value or want what salesmen assume they can't provide.
Example: Tom Monoghan, of Dominoes Pizza, was a store manger for Dominoes when it was just a small three man shop in Michigan. Mike stood at his counter every day for a year and asked each customer one question, what do you want most in a pizza ? And the answer surprised him, it wasn't more toppings, or thicker crust, it was home delivery. Value Challenge: What one question should you be asking your customers to find out what they value most ?
Provide More Customization, Choice
The customer's ability to adapt your product to changing needs adds value to your product. Offer choices that make sense in today's market. Keep tweaking the mix in constant communication with your customers. But remember, customer's may demand choice but what they need is guidance. The secret is to figure out which choices add value in your customer's eyes, and which ones only add costs.