We increasingly hear that value-based selling is the only approach to adopt in order to optimise a sales organisation's ability to achieve and/or maintain a position of competitive advantage. Great stuff. Sounds impressive. What does it mean? It means being in tune with your customer - being adaptable as to how you do business together. It's being able to find mutually satisfying answers to a number of questions which begin with such words as how?, what?, why?, when? and where?
The adaptability you display towards your customer may mean offering less rather than more, where companies focus on the products' price and delivery and do not wish to be "sold" extra service - training, maintenance, consulting. Initially, these may not be the type of transactions that appeal to your organisation, but adapting your offering develops a relationship that guarantees repeat business with the possibility of augmented services at a later date. You will have noticed Digital's latest advertisements with the subtitle of "Whatever it takes": that's what it boils down to really.
Customisation of your offering may mean a number of things. Providing customised products in the world of IT presents more challenges if you are merely selling the physical product but most of you, I believe, would be promoting your skill and knowledge of the applicability of the product to the customer's business as the core offering.
Tailor your resources and skill to create an extended physical product that will meet what the customer is seeking. If you're smart you will go beyond customisation to delighting the customer by providing that little extra. For example, send the customer articles of interest (not on your product!) within their industry, demonstrate your focus on their marketplace by inviting him/her to industry events that you are attending.
The third concept is responsiveness. My belief is that this is probably the most critical. In my dealings with the press over the years, I have always maintained a strong relationship with the journalists because I answered all their queries in a timely fashion, indicating when I would get back to them with answers to both product, pricing and delivery issues.
In addition, I have always provided articles and particular vendor opinions on certain technology topics being canvassed by particular publications. There is no doubt that they think of me whenever they are looking for input into coverage of certain topics or views on where my industry is heading.
Absolutely always respond to your customers' questions, issues, problems or complaints above all else. The fact that your organisation responds to them immediately is guaranteed to be discussed with other organisations and the power of "word of mouth" will result in increased enquires for your services/products. This sense of urgency in meeting the needs of the customer must flow naturally through your entire organisation. The leader must act upon it and be seen to believe in the value of being a responsive organisation. You could even set up a responsiveness metric whereby all calls are monitored for actioning requirements and analysed monthly for possible improvement.
Dolores Diez-Simson is business communications manager at Datacraft.