Value-Based Selling

Customers have more options than ever for purchasing products. The new digital economy, driven by e-commerce giant Amazon, has brought suppliers and customers together in ways that weren’t even imagined a few years ago. However, there are still numerous instances in which face-to-face selling still has a significant influence on the buying process. Regardless of the means of selling, there is one word that drives today’s sale: value. Since customers have so many options only a mouse click away, to distinguish yourself you need to bring the customer real value. This article focuses on face-to-face interaction, but much of this information also applies to the digital world.

What Is Value?

Oxford’s Online Dictionary defines value as:

1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something

Translating this definition to the world of sales means that to differentiate your product from the competition, you must ensure that the customer sees the importance, worth, or usefulness your product offers him or her, or if the customer is a provider, his or her customers. That importance, worth, or usefulness needs to meet a need the customer has. The greater your product’s importance, worth, or usefulness to the customer, the greater the value your product offers the customer and the more likely he or she will buy it.

Benefits Generate Value

The facts about or features of your product aren’t what creates value. Value comes from the benefit those facts or features bring to the customer. Benefits are the impact of the features of your product. Customers buy items and services based on benefits, not just features. For example, consider the most common reason people buy a new car. Every year J.D. Power and Associates research the top reason customers select a type of car. In 2016, the number one reason was “expected reliability.” Over half of the car buyers that year cited expected reliability as the top reason. What’s important to note is that reliability is a benefit, not a feature of a car. The fact that a car has the latest electronic ignition technology isn’t important, but the fact that this technology makes the car more reliable is the trigger that will cause the customer to buy it.

Keys to Showing Value

Selling a product is about getting a customer to make a change—either to try something new with your product or to change from what he or she is currently using to your product. Demonstrate the value of your product and drive that change by:

1.  Focusing on impact

Customers aren’t focused on the differentiating features of your product. Instead, they want to know how your product’s differentiating features will positively affect them. It’s a subtle but important difference. By keeping your messaging focused on impact and stressing the benefit they will achieve, you offer a compelling reason to change.

2.  Linking features to benefits

As salespeople, we sometimes get so caught up in the facts and data about our product that we forget to communicate what that means to the customer. The phrase “what this means to…” provides a way to build that bridge between your product’s features and benefits.

3.  Communicating the need-feature-benefit

The “golden nugget” of selling is discovering a customer’s need, then satisfying that need with your product’s features and benefits. This is not a new concept but rather a time-tested approach to value selling. As you engage a customer, the more you can work to discover that need, the more effective you will be at bringing value to the customer.

4.  Painting a picture

If you can first paint a picture of the value your product brings to customers, then they are more likely to make that a reality. The idea is to illustrate clearly what benefit your product’s features will have for them. This benefit must be something that will make their life better, easier, or more complete. Painting that picture in their mind is where it starts.

5.  Asking benefit questions

Differentiating your product requires questions, but not just any questions. Your questions must be ones that discover a need that will allow you to illustrate the positive impact your product will have on customers. These are called benefit questions. For example, you might use a question like, “If I show you how our product would reduce X, would that help you be more effective at Y?” In this case, “Y” must be so important to the customers that if they were able to get it, they would buy your product.


Bringing value to the customer is not a new idea but is still an important one. Customers need to see a differentiation in your product through an illustration of how it will benefit them. Showing that differentiation comes from focusing on a product’s impact and discovering a customer’s need and then satisfying it with the features and benefits of your product. As you communicate your product’s benefits, paint a picture of what that benefit will look and feel like to the customer. Good questions that uncover the customer’s desired state or situation are key to being able to link your product’s features and benefits. In a crowded market, the key to good selling is differentiating your product by showing the real value it brings customers.

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