Today we’re going to talk about something I like to call “value gap theory.” If you read this post, understand its message, and employ it in your sales approach…you can leverage OTHER salespeople’s efforts to help you get in the door at your target customer…seriously, your “competitor” sales reps will help you win business. We touched on this a little bit ago in this post, but now we’re going to flesh it out.
First a little background as to how this insight came to me. I started my present job at a new company in June of this year. This new job is at a direct competitor of my previous employer. This previous employer has some pretty great salespeople working there and what I found in the first month here is that some of our newer sales reps were having limited success when they were running up against a few of the top reps from the other company.
As I watched the flailing, futile efforts of this one rep in particular, this whole thing hit me. There was NO WAY our guy would ever win any business. I knew this because I happen to know the competing rep personally and he is amazing at what he does. Our guy and his low value approach was actually making our competitor look EVEN BETTER than he already is! Why is it always the poor performers that teach you the most useful lessons? Fascinating stuff.
So how does the value gap theory work? I’m glad you asked.
In every sales situation where there is more than one salesperson calling on a target customer, the lowest value salespeople are SELLING the “best” salesperson. When I say “best,” I am talking about the one that the customer perceives as being the best. Ironically, the lower value reps rarely realize what they are doing. They think they’re working their way toward an order!
Let’s look at 2 sales people and how their vastly different approaches illustrate what I mean:
Jim shows up at an account in a random fashion, never on the same day of the week, and usually at different times of the day. He’ll run over at the drop of a hat when the customer calls. This limits his calls per day to 5-8 depending on what develops. He usually wears a polo shirt and jeans…maybe slacks, and his usual approach is to stop in and say any number of low value things:
“What’s going on?”
“Do you have anything for me?”
“Can I work on something for you?”
“I’d love an opportunity…”
“I was just in the area.”
“I just thought I’d stop in…”
Meanwhile, Tim begins calling on the same account consistently every other Monday at about 10am, because this account happens to fit into his personal business plan. He’s dressed in a shirt/tie and dress slacks, and he always brings something interesting or useful to show the customer. He has a REASON to make the call. He never asks low value questions. He asks personal questions, works on building a relationship with the buyer, and he presents the new item or new idea he brought to share in a compelling fashion. He even sent a personal note after his first face to face meeting thanking the customer for their time and attention. This guy exudes class and attention to detail.
Having a defined calling schedule also allows Tim to make at least 12-15 calls daily. Not only is he putting a more competent, professional image forward, he’s playing the numbers game better than Jim as well.
Regardless of who may be the incumbent rep today, who do you think is more likely to have the account 12 months from now? Debate over whether or not certain customers must be babied with attention/visited more often, but I don’t think you can debate that in the long term, Tim will definitely earn more than Jim.
Tim’s value filled, consistent approach is stellar. Even more incredible though…isn’t Jim’s (comparatively) lackadaisical approach making Tim’s plan (and Tim!) look amazing??? He likely has no idea about the value contrast and it’s effect of amplifying Tim’s value. He fails to realize nothing exists in a vacuum. Likewise…Tim is (potentially) making Jim look absolutely terrible, where Jim may have otherwise actually seemed like an “ok” sales rep in the eyes of the buyer before Tim arrived on scene.
Would you rather be viewed as a Jim or Tim?
Do you know how many salespeople run around unwittingly being Jim? It’s depressing…until you realize this is why YOU can win and make a great living in sales. If everyone was amazing the competition would be much more fierce and this job wouldn’t pay as well! But they’re not! Hooray!
Being the highest value rep in the eyes of the customer is the linchpin to your entire successful sales career.
Make an effort to be CLEARLY the “best” rep that calls on the prospect, and it will soon be your customer.
Unfortunately, I must admit, there is one caveat to the employ of this theory. That will be the topic of our next post. Talk to you soon.