We invest a lot of effort into building great sales teams. We pay our sellers generous amounts of money, invest in solid training programs, and ensure that our team is effective at what they do.

So, despite our best efforts, why do we get the impression that our sellers just aren’t adding value in their interactions with prospects?

Before we start blaming our salespeople, there’s one thing we need to consider. Sellers are trained to talk about a product, and sell it. But clients are now better informed than they’ve ever been. With the prevalence of research tools like Google and Wikipedia, there’s now a vast amount of product information that’s readily available to anyone who is interested.

The consequence? As one sales manager put it to me, clients now “know more about my products than my sellers do.” And it’s really not far from the truth. These days, a buyer that’s done their research will be just as informed as the seller is.

So, if a seller can’t add value by giving the buyer information that they don’t already know, how can they add value to their interactions?

It’s an important question for every seller to ask themselves. After all, if they can’t add value to their client interactions, why would the buyer have any reason to buy from them?

To resolve this dilemma, sellers first need to consider the process that a buyer goes through in making their purchase decision. This process is perhaps more accurately described as a journey:

  1. The buyer begins by becoming troubled about a particular issue
  2. They then think about the problem that’s troubling them
  3. They attempt to define the problem
  4. They think about how they might solve that problem
  5. They look for places that they might find the solution
  6. They decide on a solution

Typically, buyers want to talk to sellers only after they’ve defined the problem, and have decided what sort of solution they want. They search for a vendor of these solutions, and subsequently approach you for help.

But the problem for sellers is that by this time, the buyer’s already done all the heavy thinking. All they’re looking for now is a product pitch and a price comparison. At this point, there’s not really much of an opportunity for the seller to add value.

Where sellers can truly add value, however, is at the earliest stage of the buying journey. Buyers often approach sellers without knowing what the problem actually is. All they know is that something is troubling them in their business, and that anxiety has compelled them to meet with you. But what they’re looking for at this stage is clarity around the problem – not a pitch on the features, advantages and benefits of a product that might solve it.

If a seller can help buyers understand and define the problem, then they can add real value. Effective sellers are skilled in helping clients to think through and define the problem. In fact, you know that you’re a great seller if you can clearly relate to a colleague exactly how the buyer has described the problem they’re trying to solve. And, if you can articulate your understanding of the problem just as clearly to the buyer, then you’ve truly created value.

Now, you might be asking: “So what? We’ve created value for the buyer, but I’m paying my sellers to sell my products; not to help potential buyers find the problem.”

Well, the advantage that comes from helping the buyer to define the problem is that you’re getting in early. If you help your prospect to identify their problem, then you’ve had the earliest engagement with them out of all your competitors. So when the buyer gets ready to select a vendor for a solution to their problem, who do you think is going to be the front runner? The seller who was with them from the very beginning, of course.

What’s important to remember is that at the end of the day, the buyer is still going to go through the usual process. They will still run a competitive tender and get quotes from other vendors. But the secret to winning a competitive pitch is to get the buyer to want you to win, and to give them a proposal that allows them to award you their business. We’ll talk about how you can do that in a future article. In the meantime, focus on creating real value for your buyers by helping them to acknowledge the true problem, and helping to shape the rest of their journey.

Eddie Smith is the Founder of Sales Schematics Australia, and an accredited align.me Funnel Coach. To read more of his insights, go to the SSA Technical – Sales Insights blog.