Algebra of Value

Selling is a lot of work, so shouldn’t we focus on doing those things that have the highest impact?  For big, complex, expensive deals, with big rewards, we’re constantly working to raise the perception of importance of our solution.  Similarly, urgency - or time to close - is one of the key battles we wage from the very initial conversation to the final throws of getting the deal signed.   Is “lighting a fire” under customers an endless and seemingly futile effort?  No good rep is afraid of hard work, but are we spending more time than we should working on low leverage tasks instead of the perception of importance?  Are we focused on improving those things that have only incremental benefits vs exponential benefit?  Is our energy centered on the how to buy before we’ve really finished the why to buy?           

The answer to all is Yes!  The more we focus on Value (V) the more Importance (I) customers will place on our Solution and the less Time (T) will be required to get the deal done.  Our 8th grade math teacher might have written this as a two formulas: T=k/V and I=Vn (k and n are constants).

Forgive me, I don’t mean to cause sweaty flashbacks to your junior high algebra days, but there is a simple relationship between the amount of perceived value of your solution, the importance a potential customer places on your solution (and what it addresses), the urgency with which your customer acts, and the amount of time required to get a deal done.   Value has a direct relationship on the Importance, or the priority of a deal, and an inverse relationship on the Time to close:

More Value equals more Importance.  More Value equals less Time to close.  More Importance means less Time.  More Time implies less Value and less Importance. 

Put a different way, a little more focus on the why to buy will greatly reduce the when to buy, while minimizing the work required for how to buy.  Value is not only the quantified amount of ROI we can deliver, but also the extent our solution aligns with important and urgent needs, problems, initiatives, challenges, and goals.  If we think about this in terms of Steven Covey’s famous Time Management Matrix, we’d like to find a way for our “buying cycle” to be in the Important/Urgent quadrant.  The “math” above highlights that urgency, importance, and value are all interrelated.  They’re not independent.  Given this simple compelling relationship, why wouldn’t you spend most of your energy learning about, aligning, and quantifying value?

Think about it anecdotally for a minute:  Imagine you’re sitting at home when you get a call from a respected colleague.  Your life - personal and business - is humming along with all kinds of things of various levels of importance, urgency, and value.  Oh, by the way, you happen to be the President of the United States.  And your colleague?  He’s calling to tell you there’s an asteroid on its way to destroy earth.  Good news?  The asteroid won’t hit tomorrow.  Bad news?  We need to figure out how to stop it now because it’s coming in a hurry.  What do you value?  What’s most important to you right now?  What’s most urgent?  Sales people need to align their value to stopping the proverbial asteroid.  No, not everyone is working to help prevent the earth’s destruction but the better you can align and quantify your value in term the customer cares about the more likely – and sooner - you are to get a deal.  Think about the last big deal you did.  Where was your customer on the value curve?

A lot of sales training and methodology focuses on improving the efficiency of the all those “Steps” we have to take in a buying process.  All those things we work on after we think we’re past the why.  Nobody is suggesting that doing things like mapping out the organization, understanding the “supplier management” model, doing more demos, understanding the culture, identifying key roles like who is the decision maker, building rapport with legal and purchasing, etc, isn’t important.  But buyers want to buy value.  Focus on that before you focus on the buying process.  Peter Drucker said, “You are efficient when you do things right. You are effective when you do the right thing.”  The right thing is sell value, not features, functions, and demos.

Focus on those things with the highest leverage and impact in your selling process.  Focus on Value.  Be on that high part of the graph were there’s higher value, more importance, and less time to close.  Mrs. Smith from 8th grade algebra would be proud.