COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | JEFFREY GITOMER

What is the most misused word in the world of sales?

The most misused word in sales will surprise you. It’s “value.”

Value is a misguided, misused, maligned word, whose meaning has gone fallow. It is used without meaning, understanding and implication. It’s bantered about in a way that customers (including yours) are becoming numb to anything related to the word.

Value has become an empty buzzword – it’s like the word paradigm, only dumber, because you can’t define value in terms of the customer if your life depended on it.

Reality: When you print or speak the word "value," it’s usually from your perspective. Your self-defined value. The value you put on your product or service, your value statement, your value proposition, your added value, or worse (the slang that no one can define), your “value-add.”

Grim reality: Whether implied, given, added, printed or spoken, the key word that makes “value” both misused and misunderstood is "perceived." If the customer or prospect does not perceive value, no matter what you say, there is none. The customer’s perception of value is your reality, and the customer’s perception is all that matters. Your sales hang in the balance.

Value clarification: When a salesperson says, “The value-add is: and whatever they say implies you gotta buy before you get any value” – not good. It sounds insincere, and is usually somewhere close to bogus. It’s not value – it’s jack – and “jack,” in case you’re not from Philly, is half of a word.

Ask yourself these questions to discover if there’s any real value in your value offering:

• Do I have to buy something to get the value offered?

• Is there a pitch at the end of the free valuable information?

• Am I required to do something in exchange for the value?

• Am I stating value in terms of me, my company or my products?

If any of these questions are answered in the affirmative, then the value you’re offering is perceived as negative.

If you have a "Value Proposition" (most companies do), and you talk about it as your “value prop,” it’s probably self-serving. My advice is: Get rid of it, and create a new one. A value proposition is not about who you are, what you do, or what your benefits are – rather it’s how the customer wins. Value must be expressed in terms of them.

“Added value” is a phrase that makes my blood pressure rise. Don’t add value, give value. Big difference. Adding implies you have to “buy to get.” Giving means the customer receives before buying. Give value – don’t add value.

My marketing philosophy and marketing strategy: I give value first. I put myself in front of people who can say “yes” to me, and I deliver value first. Doing that creates “value attraction” – it’s the real law of attraction.

Also note: Providing continuous, value-based information after the sale ensures loyalty.

Here are some specific examples of before and after the sale “value ideas.” Think about these and then create your own.

• Sharing industry best practices.

• Manufacturing components and offering plant safety tips.

• Medical devices to doctors and teaching bedside manner.

• Teaching clerks how to close sales when a customer comes in to buy using your coupon or voucher.

• Office supplies and teaching customer service to receptionists and accounting.

• Anything in favor of your customer that helps them increase productivity, communication, operations, morale and especially profit.

Obvious answer: If you really want to deliver value, ask your customers what they consider valuable. Whatever they say, do that, offer that, share that, communicate that, teach that, print that and say that. In a nutshell, that’s value. Real value. Value perceived.

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