Delivering customer value can be conveyed through intangible benefits which are easily overlooked. Many companies don’t know how far their value extends for their brand and their offerings which, when articulated, could surface new opportunities and depth in customer relationships.
Let’s start this conversation by understanding the evolution of sales. Throughout the history of sales, there has been an evolution. For example, in the 1920s, it was about knowing what makes people “tick”; in the 1950s and 1960s, sales became formulaic in terms of problem-solving and feature selling. Then sales moved into spin selling and benefit selling. In the 1990s, sales was about adaptive selling – adapting to what’s going on in that dynamic sales conversation. From there, it was about relationship selling or trust-based selling. In 2011, the Challenger sale was introduced, where the salesperson challenges the future customer’s status quo to surface needs and opportunities. Now we’re into value-based selling and symbiotic selling. What is the common thread of all of these sales approaches? It’s about addressing the mental conversation in your future customer’s mind.
To address the mental conversation in your future customer’s mind, the first question to answer is: who is this person talking to me and are they credible? Next, what are they offering? Why is it relevant to me – why should I care? Then how does it work? Lastly, how do I sign up? Those are the five questions that any potential customer is going to ask through any sales process, no matter the approach. As a vendor, you need to be able to address them. You have to show what the value of your solution for that future customer, regardless of the sales approach. You have to look at how you’re communicating value.
Communicating Your Brand’s Value
Who is usually charged with communicating a company’s value? The Marketing team… however, Marketing and Sales are on the same continuum. Marketing is about positioning and Sales is about personalizing – and both share (or should be sharing) the same messages of value across that entire continuum. In other words, value is the connection between your messaging with your audience and your products and services.
Where does your company express its customer value or its brand promise? That’s a bit of a trick question because it’s in everything – events, brochures, value proposition, website, marketing collaterals, etc. Everything is an opportunity to create your brand promise and value to your customers. And your customers includes your employees, your leadership, your partners, your stakeholders … everyone who is connected with your brand and every touchpoint becomes a place to communicate your company’s value.
Why People Buy Anything
Now that we understand more about different approaches sales can take, and how your company’s value is communicated, it’s important to consider why people anything. There is the know, like, and trust factor. We all want to do business with people we know, like, and trust, which is a very emotional and subjective criteria.
Then there is what I call the heuristic impulse. I learned this one when I owned a boutique retail business. I would hand-select and buy the most perfect merchandise. I would lay it out beautifully and organize it so customers could walk in and know at one glance what they wanted to buy. Well, people weren’t buying. One day, when I desperately needed sales, I thought, “What if I set up a table and pile a whole bunch of stuff on it to get it out of the way. If people buy, great. If they don’t, at least I made room to do more beautiful displays.”
So I did that and learned that people ignored the beautiful displays and went straight to that table to start digging. They wanted to make their own little personal discovery, and when they found something, they were invested in it so they would buy it. That is the heuristic impulse that is, again, very subjective and very intangible.
Then, of course, we have the common knowledge that emotion makes the buying decision and then logic substantiates it. You see this in everything from buying ice cream at midnight to buying a sports car to buying the latest whiz-bang tech. If we really want something, we’re going to find a way to rationalize it and make it make sense. So is it important for us to know how to speak to intangible value in business? Yes.
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The Intangible Benefits You Might Already Be Delivering
Understanding the intangible benefits that your company may be delivering even now, and that you might not be thinking about in terms of your marketing messaging, can become a more clear part of your brand promise. Here are the 12 intangible benefits your company may – or could – be delivering.
1. Clarity: The more you can surface and articulate your customers’ struggle, the more credible you are as a resource and the faster they can solve it. You might be helping your audience gain clarity where they didn’t even know that they didn’t have it. They may not even know what they’re confused about or they may not know how to articulate their problem. Bonus: the person who can articulate the issue is generally the one that we presume to be able to solve it. So the more credible you are and the faster you solve it, the more business that you gain.
2. Learn faster: By accelerating the learning curve, your customers can integrate new knowledge into their situations more quickly for faster results. You want to compress their learning curve so they can accelerate getting their desired outcome. When you help your customers integrate knowledge into whatever challenges, problems or situations they are confronting to get to their results faster is a big win in today’s rapid-fire business environment.
3. Design their outcome: Your work in business naturally causes people to have to decide what they want from it because that is how we humans measure success. So by helping design the outcome, which might be doing interviews, a situational snapshot or a needs assessment, your customer gains clarity in what’s possible and what they want from engaging with your company. When you help your customers determine what they want, that’s the first step of actually getting to experience it.
In fact, that is XTIVIA’s vision and tagline: if you can imagine the business outcome, XTIVIA can create it with technology. We’re not a normal tech company because while zeros and ones fall out of our in-house technicians’ words, they are also versed speaking about business targets. You can’t have technology in a vacuum without understanding what the outcome of that technology is going to be… as a creative brand, we help create something that is going to provide sustainable and lasting value for our customers. While that was a shameless plug, it’s also the fastest reference I have for what XTIVIA does in helping our customers gain clarity and design their outcome.
4. Upgrade their resources: Obviously your customer needs something – the whole point of business is somebody needs something that somebody else can provide. Helping your customers upgrade their resources means you are helping them do business better. In terms of technology, that could be upgrading legacy systems to eliminating shadow IT to streamlining workflows. The result of upgrading resources is that your customer gains time, efficiency, productivity, bottom-line revenues, etc.
5. Elevate thinking: Transformation – especially digital transformation – is a hot topic. Transformation happens through new concepts vs. goals or activities-based support. When you have more sophisticated thinking, more refinement in approaching something, greater perspective to clarify perception… now problem-solving happens from a very different place.
6. Replace outdated paradigms: To achieve and maintain new results, your customer needs the right resources; replacing outdated paradigms can make the business case for that. When you can help your customers identify what’s not working and show what and where the habits and ruts are, then new possibilities and opportunities can emerge.
Here’s a fascinating example: when zippers started replacing buttons, people said, “Oh, we’re not going to adopt those zippers because they’re sinful,” and now we would think, “What?” Zippers helped you disrobe more quickly and, at the time, button people were shocked by that. Now we hardly wear clothes without a zipper and, in fact, we have clothes with Velcro! This is an example of how a new paradigm changed everything in the clothing industry.
7. Get beyond the old: When your customer lets go of what ‘was’, they can be present the power of the present moment. When people are invested in the status quo or living from what was proven to work in the past, it can stall, stifle or stop progress. It’s important to let go of, “we’ve been doing it this way for so long,” or, “we have already invested money in that way.” What got you (meaning your customer) here won’t get you there. No one can win a race by looking backwards so when your customer is facing forward, they will gain new momentum and achieve faster results.
8. Expand perception: This is the crux of transformation right here. New awareness creates new options by either adding something new (ideas, concepts, solutions) or taking something away (conflict, confusion, complications). When you have new awareness, you allow new options because you’re adding ideas, concepts, solutions or, conversely, you’re taking things away (aka, creative destructionism).
9. Afford new possibility: Customers work with you because they want something more, which means going beyond their comfort zone to open a dynamic gap of what’s possible for a new future. They may not even know what they want, and their comfort zone might be preventing them from seeing new possibilities. When you can open up that dynamic gap between the status quo and new potential, people get excited about making change. Since your company has the vision, they will naturally want to see your company as the expert.
When you can show a (future) customer how to move beyond where they are, beyond the inertia to break the stagnancy of the status quo, that is tremendously valuable. Even just one of these 12 intangible benefits is enough to show your customers you’re thinking about them in a new way.
10. Advance wholeness: Where there is wholeness, there is less conflict (problems, chaos, struggle, drama, frustration, resistance, etc.) because there is no need to justify or defend anything anymore. Everything starts working together holistically. In a change process, especially around a digital transformation initiative, people get hooked into what they already know. Maybe they’re frustrated, but they don’t know how to get out of it. Maybe they have resistance to this new idea.
However, where there’s a holistic approach and when people can see the bigger picture, there’s just no need to justify or defend what it is that they thought that they knew because it no longer has relevance. It just doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s like, “Oh, well, of course, it needs to work like that,” because that’s the whole system.
As an example, let’s revisit marketing and sales. That is a whole system which so often gets compartmentalized with the marketing team doing one thing and the sales team having other conversations. That creates a disconnect. It is a very fragmented way to approach future and current customers. Your company needs to have wholeness, and when you are the vendor who is advancing wholeness to benefit your customers, the value of that cannot be measured.
11. Innovate solutions: By solving problems in new ways, your customers experience possibility in action, fresh confidence and a new identity that supports their ‘now’ state. Innovation is about getting current and being more competitive. The downside is that, sometimes, people want to bypass the now and go straight to the future. So sometimes you need to ‘back-fill’, or do some prep work, to innovate.
Note: we also have a Live Session on the Seven Ways to Innovate.
Remember people can be invested in living from the past and don’t want to innovate. There might be denial, or habit, getting in the way. When things are the way they are and they’ve been that way for a really long time, it’s just really easy to say, “Oh, that’s because…” and justify the status quo. We humans wear blinders. It is natural for us to filter out the familiar. That means that, sometimes, our customers don’t really recognize what’s happening. They don’t know they have legacy debt or tech debt that is compromising their functionality or security. In such situations, people will think, “Oh wow, that system is really outdated but it’s expensive to invest in an upgrade. Let’s just keep spending the money to keep that system limping along.” Until they are willing to see the truth, they won’t understand the difference between a cost and an investment.
12. Orient around truth: When you help customers recognize what is really happening, they have the opportunity to shift their mindset and, accordingly, their outcomes. However, the truth can be a difficult conversation to have so compassion is the key. For example, “Hey, you’re not upgrading your resources or innovating – if you don’t your competitors will” is a harsh truth; however, by phrasing the upside, it can be more palatable – “Hey, by upgrading your resources or innovating, you can become an industry leader.”
While some of these may seem like subtle nuances or ‘echo’ each other, they do have the power of surfacing key distinctions about your company’s brand promise. Knowing these intangible benefits for your brand means you can orient some of your messaging, your positioning, what you say in customer conversations. There are all kinds of opportunities to apply what you just learned.
If you aren’t sure what your intangible benefits are, me or anyone on XTIVIA’s marketing team would love to explore what your digital brand looks like — your brand promise, your messaging — to surface your intangible benefits.