How to drive awareness and understanding of your value proposition throughout every department
While some distributors have spent time creating a value proposition that employees can recite by heart, when it comes time to really talk about how to sell their company’s value, many salespeople falter.
It’s not surprising. Especially in distribution, a salesperson’s individual value has been tied to what they know about the widgets they’re selling. Selling value is more difficult.
The thing is, salespeople might know what their company’s value proposition is and they might be able to recite it, but when it comes down to saying, “Okay, what does that really mean to your customer? How do you take that value and tie it back to what your customer’s needs are day to day?” They just have no idea.
Value matters more today than ever. If you haven’t, take some time to create an effective value proposition. Consider what customers say is important, combined with how your company performs and how competitors stack up. Recognize that creating a value proposition is only the beginning.
The next and most important step involves disseminating the value proposition within the organization. Before they can actively speak with your customers about your value, each employee needs to understand what the value proposition means for their role, as well as the customers they work with.
Sell the Value Internally First
Many employees think that a value proposition only applies to the sales teams.
But understanding of the company’s value proposition applies to everyone within the organization. Even non-customer facing roles such as operations, HR and purchasing all have a stake in making the value proposition work. For example, an operations team can streamline the number and type of suppliers they work with based on the company’s value proposition. Finance leaders will understand which initiatives and inventory should be top priority in the budget.
One way to engage all employees in understanding and applying the value proposition in their roles is to have them determine what it means to their department.
Take this value proposition for a distributor, for instance:
“We invest in your success. We help you succeed with products, pricing and services you can trust.”
While exploring what the value proposition meant to them, the distributor’s purchasing team realized they play a significant role in the fulfillment of the value proposition because they are responsible for product stocking levels and specially sourced products. They also realized that they have a direct link to their customers in their day-to-day activities. By tying their work back to the value proposition, the purchasing department realized their direct connection with the value they provide their customers.
When considering what value proposition means across different company departments, some companies set quarterly or annual objectives as a result of their departmental conversations. In the case of the purchasing team, they set a goal to have a certain amount of inventory in stock for a set of particular items based on the value proposition. That was their way of delivering that value to the customer. This is also a good way to establish and incentivize those activities; provide a bonus to teams based on meeting these objectives.
Similarly, the operations team set an objective to review pricing for those items quarterly to ensure best pricing. These goals tied back to the overall value proposition and provided measurable benchmarking opportunities for each department to observe and improve.
Then, Understand What Customers Value, Based on the Role
How does your value proposition translate to each segment of your customer base? Very likely, it will mean different things to different customer segments. And it will mean something different based on who you are talking to within your customer’s organizations.
For example, you might be talking to a buyer about creating a contract around a market basket of goods, focused primarily on pricing. But a foreman on a jobsite is more concerned with getting it when they need it. He just wants you to get him the stuff he needs so he can complete the job within the required timeframe.
The conversation you’re having with each of those roles will be different. If you don’t ask probing questions to learn about what each truly cares about, you are missing an opportunity to sell and deliver the real value your company can provide.
The sale is essentially the same, but what each role or persona cares about is different. What moves the needle is different. Understanding that is key to selling the value of what you’re offering to that customer.
The Donut Runs Are Over
This comes down to shifting from the transactional sale to the consultative sale. Going forward, if a salesperson can’t consultatively sell, they won’t have a job. Customers want you to help them be successful. How can you help them do it faster, easier, cheaper and quicker? Many still stop by, with the figurative donuts, and ask if there are orders for the day. What might have worked in the past won’t work today. And younger buyers don’t want to have their time wasted with non-value add.
Taking the time to create a strong value proposition is only the first step. From there, remember to communicate and engage employees in implementing a value proposition throughout the entire organization. Ensuring that your employees are aware of and invested in your company’s value ensures that everyone knows how they contribute to the bigger picture of what the company does for your customers. Every objective within the company should be traced back to that value proposition.
Without this kind of consistency across every touchpoint, a distributor will remain undifferentiated in the customer’s mind.
Bill Wade has been involved in the distribution and vehicle business on both the manufacturer and distributor sides for over fifty. He has written and spoken extensively on the evolution of buying groups and the effects of distribution consolidation.
In 1998, he founded FleetPride by combining nearly 30 family companies. Today, FleetPride is the largest truck parts and service distributor in the world, with 300 branches and over $1.3 billion in sales
He formed Wade&Partners, a consulting company specializing in issues such as unexpected growth opportunities, strategic development, startup or turnaround counsel and brand building and restoration.
He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and holds a Master of Management from Northwestern’s Kellogg School.