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Learn to Sell on Value, Not Price - 4/10/2012 -

When selling advertising in association media products, price is only an issue when it is presented as the primary benefit.

By Nathan Jamail

How many times have you heard: "The advertiser only cares about the price?” Most associations will say they hear it all the time. However, price is only an issue when it is presented as the only benefit (or primary benefit). Regardless of industry, product, and economy, an association does not need professional sales people to sell price. For that, all you need is a website or media kit and a payment processor.

However, if an association wants to increase sales and margin, it needs to teach its resource development and/or advertising sales team how to establish real value; and once the sales teams are taught this, they need to practice doing it over and over again. The difference between an amateur and a professional is that professionals practice their skills; they don’t just play the game or go on sales calls assuming the sales call is their "practice.” The key to overcoming price is not a scripted catchy phrase; rather, it is learning how to create a real value partnership between your association and its industry’s vendors, and in order to do that, one must practice.

Stop Selling Value Like Everyone Else

Selling value is more than making statements like: "We have the industry authority, experience, and expertise,” or "Our members make the difference.” When asked about the value offered, these are the most common answers given from association sales people. And yet, this is no different than a person going on a job interview and telling the interviewer that they should hire them because they are a self-starter, team player, people person, motivated, and loyal. Why? Because all of these answers are generic and do not differentiate your association from the next organization. Here are some points to remember when selling based on value.

Value is determined by the prospect. "What value do you add?” is a trick question because it can only be answered after the sales professional understands how the prospect defines what they believe is value. To determine what the customer perceives as value, an association sales professional must ask the prospective customer purposeful questions—and ask a lot of them. The more the sales professional learns and understands, the more likely they will be able to establish the association’s value according to the prospect.

Although many sales people know this, very few truly implement it. Too many sales people flood a prospect with information on what the association has to offer without knowing whether or not what they are saying will be of value to their prospective advertiser. It cannot be stressed enough: Ask questions first before explaining the value you bring.

Ask more than just open-ended or leading questions. Most sales people ask questions like: "Would it be a benefit to you if we could give you more of this for less money?” In most cases, it is a rhetorical question that the customer has no choice but to respond to with a ‘yes.’ That is like asking a child if they’d like to have more candy, play all day, and not do homework.

However, asking purposeful questions allows the sales professional to truly understand the prospect. Here are three easy steps to make sure you’re able to sell on true value and not price.

1. Write down your questions and take them with you. This does not make an association sales person less of a professional or less of an expert. In fact, this will allow you to show a prospect how important it is to fully understand their needs and desires. To do this correctly, the order of your questions is important as well. Start your questions wide: industry-company-person-current vendor, and then finally about the product or service.

2. Help the prospective advertiser understand what makes your association successful. A partnership is a two-way street, so remember that the association sales professional is responsible for both ways. This means the sales professional shares with the prospective advertiser what makes the organization successful, focusing on the why and value for both sides.

3. Practice, practice, practice. Practice your sales calls every day before you go on them, rather than simply talking about the appointment afterwards and calling it practice.

Final Thoughts

If resource development team leaders do not mandate ongoing practice and get involved themselves, then it will never happen. This is just like a professional sports team that will not practice if the coach does not require it and work on the field with the team.

Second thought: If the prospect cannot truly afford the association’s media products, do not lower the price and the perceived value. Instead, find a new prospect. By admitting that your product is not a fit, you will gain more advertisers long-term than you will force-feeding an association’s magazine, e-newsletter, or website advertising packages and losing value along the way.

Lastly, every advertiser wants the most for the lowest price. This is not a bad thing once an association media sales professional learns how to help the prospect understand that what they really want is success for the best price.

Marketing success can only be achieved by working with a true partner. Association sales professionals need to prepare and practice so the next time the prospective advertiser says, "I want the cheapest price,” they are confident and ready to take control of the sales call and never sell (or lose) on price again.

Nathan Jamail, best-selling author of The Playbook Series, is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and corporate coach.


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