Value for Money
Historically, sales commissions have been the accepted way to link income with effort. The more you sold, the more money you made. It worked because sales people could easily understand how what they did influenced their pay packet. There was nothing ambiguous about it: If you achieved X, then Y always followed.
It seemed to be a fair and equitable approach, and no one questioned it.
Then one day, someone did. Remarkably, sales went up; not down. More was sold when commissions weren’t at stake than when they were.
How could that be?
Let’s think about the remarkable election of President Donald Trump. How could a businessman with no political experience become President of the United States on the first attempt? How was he able to beat a seasoned politician with years of experience in the Government? How could the dead cert lose?
Hindsight is supposed to be 20/20. That seems to be the case here, too. Among the many reasons that have been offered to date, one of them is certain: Trump won because he ran a different race.
And he said as much.
He accused the loser of campaigning in the wrong states.
Trump made sure that he campaigned in the states that gave him the Electoral College votes he needed to win and where he felt he had the best chance of doing so.
His opponent, on the other hand, pretty much neglected the states that she thought were in the bag. In other words, she took their votes for granted.
In high-stakes politics, that’s a fatal mistake.
What could Trump’s win have to do with selling in the 21st century?
It’s simply this. There is more than one way that the selling game is played.
Reread that last sentence and make sure you understand what was just said. It doesn’t say that there’s more than one way to play the game; instead, it says that there’s more than one way that it is played.
There is an important distinction between the two. The former suggests that the rules of the game are changed. The latter refers to your attitude toward the rules; in other words, how you apply them.
Supposed you want to play some music on the piano. This particular piece has a lot of scale-like runs in it. To play it well, you have to be able to strike each key evenly every time so that the tone will be consistent. You also have to ensure that the run is smooth. To do that means that your finger must spend exactly the same amount of time on each key. No more; no less.
How will you practice those passages to achieve the desired effect?
If you change the rules, as many amateur pianists do, then you play the easy bits fast and the hard ones slow. That may get you through the piece, but that’s not making music. You don’t have to have perfect pitch to know the difference.
If you keep the rules the same, however, then you use alternative techniques in practice so that you can improve your ability to play for when it counts. One way is to practice your scales every day using a metronome. Each tick can represent one beat or half a beat. You play in such a way that the same beat or beats in the bar coincide with the tick. It’s a way to keep your speed constant.
Yes. That can be boring, but it is also effective. Over time, you can gradually increase your speed until you’re able to play the phrase beautifully.
Another way is to play the passage using dotted rhythms, initially giving more time to the first and third notes and then the second and fourth. By doing this, you’re forcing your mind and your fingers to work together differently. By exaggerating the extremes, that is by stressing the unevenness which you do naturally, you can teach yourself to play smoothly.
What does this look like in sales?
Remember that if your approach is to change the rules, then you’ll always be looking first at how you can make the sale. Whatever you say about win / win, in your heart you know that if it comes down to it, you – above all others – must win.
It would be nice if your prospect did, but if push comes to shove, you are most important.
If, however, you’re truly committed to win / win – that is, you are willing to walk away from a deal because you don’t believe that what you have to offer is in the best interests of your prospect – then you are more interested in giving that person value than making the sale.
This may be one reason why sales increase when commissions are removed.
When commissions make up a large part of the compensation that someone gets for selling, the rules of engagement are altered to give the salesperson the advantage; but, when commissions are not part of the compensation for a given sale, then the salesperson can focus on giving the client maximum value.
If the product or service that the salesperson is offering meets the condition of maximum value, then that’s all well and good; but if it doesn’t, then the seller – because of his / her commitment to ensure that the customer gets that value – will forego the sale and instead direct the customer to a more appropriate source of supply.
Can you see the difference?
You get the behaviour you reinforce.
So, the question is, “What behaviour do you want?”
To look at it another way, which is most important - sales or giving value for money?
If you modify the rules, you will make sales; but at what cost? If customers don’t feel they’re getting value for money, then their lifetime value to you probably will be less than if you focussed on value to begin with. They may buy from you initially and even subsequently; but they’ll always be looking for the better deal.
If you focus on giving value for money, then your customers will buy from you, year after year, even if you cost more than the competition. That’s because they know that you have their best interests at heart.
That’s the difference.
In their book, Managing Value-Based Organizations: It’s Not What You Think, the authors Hoag and Cooper describe two different types of value exchange. The first, they call transactions; the second transpositions.
Transactions are exactly what you think they are. They’re discrete sales. They’re self-contained events which finish when money changes hands.
You go to the supermarket, take an item off the shelf, and pay for it at the till. That’s a transaction. The next time you need a similar item, you might go back to the same store, or a different branch in another location, or to an entirely different store.
The fact that you bought the item from one company doesn’t imply that you will continue to be loyal to it necessarily.
A transposition, on the other hand, is an activity whereby each party in the exchange sees it as trading items of equal value.
The term itself is important.
Let’s use another musical example.
How often have you heard a piece of music and then afterwards found yourself humming it or whistling it? What happened when you heard it again? Didn’t you try to hum along? Were you surprised to discover that the melody was actually higher than you remembered it?
That’s a transposition. Your mind transposed the same song into a lower key; one that fit the range of your voice. Notwithstanding the technicalities of enharmonic keys, fundamentally, the value of the music didn’t change because you heard it in one way, but sang it in another.
When you participate in what is truly a transposition and not a transaction, you are committing yourself to providing value that’s equal to the value you expect to receive.
In other words, the price of the value you give equals the remuneration you get in return. But both you and your customer believe that there was parity in the exchange. No one got a better deal, and that’s because both of you were committed to making sure that that was the case.
It’s common practice for some organizations to obtain three quotes for work, and then to select the cheapest among them.
Another approach is to obtain a handful of quotes, and then automatically pick the middle one.
Both methods are flawed.
The first one assumes that all suppliers are equal, and that price alone is the distinguishing factor.
The second assumes that price alone determines quality, and yet the marketplace is filled with examples that prove that this is not the case. Sometimes you get what you pay for, but not always.
Indeed, it could be argued that it is the job of the marketing profession to make prospects believe that items are worth far more than the asking price. The fashion and jewellery industries are perfect examples.
Or how about the difference in price between a brand name headache medication and the store’s brand. If you look at the ingredients, then you’ll find that they are identical or that the more expensive one has – wait for it – caffeine in it.
When the goal of both parties is the exchange of equal value, then the price becomes nothing more than a monetary reflection of its inherent worth.
So, the question is this: When you meet with prospects in order to sell them your product or service, what is uppermost in your mind? Is it how to best meet their need, or is it how to make the sale?
The difference is enormous and reflects directly on whether you view your sales as changing the rules or applying them differently; as transactions, or transpositions.
If your goal is always to give your customers the maximum value you have to offer, to help them solve their problems, and even to send them elsewhere to find a better solution from someone else, if that’s what is most appropriate, then you can rest assured that you play the selling game differently from those who manipulate the rules for the expressed purpose of making a sale.
If you make this approach central to your selling, it will set you apart clearly from those who don’t. Prospects who you turn away will either pressure you to sell to them or will look for a way to buy from you in the future.
You see, it’s counterintuitive for a salesperson to act this way, but it has the exact opposite effect. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that people want what they can’t have. Another is that their subconscious tells them that if you’re good enough to turn business away, then you must be even better than what you thought. That makes you that much more attractive.
Obviously, you can’t make a living by turning work away; but if you get a reputation for always looking out for the best interests of your prospects, then the rest will take care of itself.
If you would like to explore this further – contact me here