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One of the Good Guys

Prospects will reach for their cash once you prove you're on their side.
June 1, 2001
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/40424

When it comes to selling, many words and phrases are casually tossed about. In fact, you've probably heard the phrase "value-added selling" a million times. But do you realize it means more than simply focusing on the value of your product or service? It also refers to the value that you personally bring to the sale.

If you don't consider adding value for your customers a high priority, you can forget about competing successfully in today's marketplace. Every time you turn around these days, there's another product out on the market just like yours. But where does your value lie? It lies within you-you are the final, deciding factor that persuades a prospect to choose your product over the competition's.

True Value

For Georgette Ravell, vice president of sales and marketing at O'Connor-Ravell Associates, a Madison, New Jersey, commercial collection agency, adding value starts with going back to the basics. "One of the most valuable assets we have is our reputation for being ethical," she says. "The collection business can be a dirty one. But 50 percent of our new accounts come from referrals, because our current customers know they can rely on us for honesty and candor as well as results."

It takes effort to build a good reputation, though. "The small things add up," adds Ravell. "For instance, we believe in personal communication. There's no voice mail in our company [except when the offices are closed]. Questions and concerns are answered immediately by a live person."

Suppose, though, that a potential client doesn't know you, your company or your reputation. How are you going to add value in that kind of situation?

Just imagine you're pitching your business to a new prospect who's never heard of you. But the potential customer rejects the sale by saying something like, "We can get your product at a lower price," "We use another vendor" or "We don't really need your product at this time."

If you think it's truly a no-sale, respond with something like: "I appreciate the time you took to see me today. I agree that right now, based on your needs and goals, we may not be the best company for you." Leave it at that, and the customer will appreciate your not wasting his or her time.

But when you truly believe there's still an opportunity to provide value, here's what you can say: "If I were in your position, I might also wonder about the benefits of doing business with me. So here's what I'd like to do. Let me do some more research on your company. I'll study your Web site and annual report. Then, over the next few weeks and months, I'll think about other ways to help you reach your goals. I'd like to show you our commitment to earning your business. If I can't find ways for my product or service to fit with your company, I won't contact you again."

This approach lets your customer know that if you call, write or e-mail him or her again, it will be because you can hook into his or her goals and challenges. You may even decide to introduce that customer to someone who can help his or her business-even if doing so has no immediate benefit for you. Your payoff will come later, when customers finally need your type of service. Because you're consistent in adding value, they'll call you for the business.

When you set high standards and sell this way, your customers will see you in a whole new light. By adding value, you become one of their companies' greatest assets-one that they won't trade in easily for another vendor at a lower price.

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