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Quenching Your Customer’s Thirst for Value

(January 6, 2019)

Sweat poured down his back. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand. Miserable, Joe stopped walking and sat down in the hot sand. He couldn’t even remember how he got here. And he wasn’t sure what to do next. But he needed to do something. He licked his lips. “I’m thirsty,” Joe murmured. “So thirsty.”

“Thirsty, you say?” An older man, his skin tanned from the sun, walked toward Joe. “I’ve got just the thing for you.” He held out a small bottle of water.

“Twenty dollars, please,” the man said.

Joe shook his head. That’s steep for such a small bottle, he thought, but reached into his pocket for $20 anyway. “Wait,” said a young girl with a ponytail. “I’ve got a bigger bottle for eighteen dollars.”

Seemed like a better deal.

As Joe rose, a man in tattered sandals darted in between. “No, no,” he said. “My water is better. It’s from a nearby spring.”

“Don’t fall for that,” a bright voice shouted across the sand. “His spring water is the same as the rest of theirs. And her water,” she said, pointing at the young girl, “is still way overpriced.”

Joe turned to the bright voice. “You sell water too? I’m dying of thirst.”

“I do, but I‘m thinking water is the least of your problems,” she said. “What are you doing out here anyway?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m honestly not sure,” he stammered.

“Well,” she continued, “is this where you want to be?”

“No,” he said. He knew that much. He definitely didn’t want to be here.

“Well, then let’s go,” she said. “You’ll be less thirsty if we get out of the desert. I’ll get some water while we talk about where you want to go. I’m Brooke, by the way.” She stuck out her hand.

Joe shook her hand vigorously with what little energy he had left. He knew this was the best idea he’d heard yet. “I can’t thank you enough,” he said, as he pulled out his wallet.

Selling water to someone who is thirsty is simple, right? Not necessarily. In this case, Joe was thirsty, but that was only part of the issue. Had the first three people he encountered taken the time to help Joe analyze his situation, they would have discovered that Joe not only needed water but, more importantly, needed help figuring out why he was there and where to go.

Salespeople often miss the big opportunity because they fail to expand the conversation beyond making the simple sale. They miss additional opportunities to provide strategic value to their customers, helping them determine why they are there and where they need to go.

Many times customers need more than a simple answer to an immediate problem—they need a way out of the desert. They need your full expertise, working together with them to identify and solve problems. They need a collaborative partner to help explore new paths.

Brooke differentiated herself by taking a Selling to Value (S2V) approach. She dug deeper and engaged Joe in a discovery process to uncover what was behind the need for water. This opened up opportunities to truly understand Joe’s unstated needs so she could bring real value to him. As a result, she was able to not only sell the water to quench his thirst but also to continue the dialogue of his underlying goals, offering a solution that created greater value for him, and bigger sales for her.

S2V is about advancing your customer’s business. What if we invested more of our energy in understanding the root of our customers’ problems, the challenges they are facing, where they want to go, the impact they want to make, and the value they are truly seeking?

What is your customer thirsty for right now? Water? Or a way out of the desert?

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About the Authors
Michael Leimbach

Michael Leimbach

Michael Leimbach, Ph.D., is a globally recognized expert in instructional design and sales development, sharing his message that it is not about what you learn but what you use. His approach has been adopted by numerous Global 1000 organizations in Australia, England, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the United States. Dr. Leimbach is Vice President of Global Research and Development for Wilson Learning Worldwide. With more than 25 years in the field, he provides leadership for researching and designing Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities. He has managed major research studies in sales, leadership, and organizational effectiveness. Dr. Leimbach also developed Wilson Learning’s impact evaluation capability and return on investment models. He has served as a research consultant for a wide variety of global client organizations, is the Editor-in-Chief of the Advances in Developing Human Resources professional journal, and serves on the ISO Technical Committee on Quality Standards for Learning Service Providers. Dr. Leimbach has authored six books, published numerous professional articles, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences.

Read more by Michael Leimbach

David Yesford

David Yesford

David Yesford, Senior Vice President of Wilson Learning Worldwide, has nearly 30 years of experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions around the world. He brings valuable experience, strategic direction, and global perspective to his work with clients. Mr. Yesford is an active member of the Wilson Learning Global Executive Board, with current responsibility at a global level. Over the years, he has held strategic roles in our core content areas of Sales and Leadership, as well as e-learning and Strategic Consulting. He has also held managing director positions in both China and India. Mr. Yesford is the contributing author of several books, including Win-Win Selling, Versatile Selling, The Social Styles Handbook, and The Sales Training Book 2. He has also been published in numerous business publications throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific. Mr. Yesford frequently speaks at international conferences and summits, focusing on issues such as sales and sales strategy, leadership, employee and customer engagement, brand, and strategy implementation.

Read more by David Yesford