You know why you won a sale, but do you know why you lost one?

In the late 1980s and early 90s, much emphasis was focused on a seller’s ability to demonstrate, what was known at the time as, a ‘Unique Value-Add’ (UVA). As products, services and increasing competition became more the same than different, the ability to demonstrate your company’s product or service ‘uniqueness’ was absolutely integral to sales success back then.

In my book, Up Your Income, I wrote, “The degree to which you cannot provide a Unique Value-Proposition, is in direct proportion to the degree you hurt yourself, your company and your industry.” and, “A true and unquestioned Unique Value-Add Proposition is the ‘raison d’etre’ that in the absence of influence, relationship or salesmanship – champions your cause.”  It should be noted that today, a UVA is still a vital part of any professional selling stratagem.

It should be noted also, that elite selling professionals and successful organizations focus more broadly on the UVA using a ‘systems’ approach that includes the lack-of-success within the product or service presentation. In short, why the UVA failed to work, resulting in no sale.

Professional sellers know that they’ll never get every sale, in many cases, for reasons beyond their control, but they are diligent in their dedication to fully understanding when, where and why, their ability to demonstrate a UVA, failed in its attempt to get customer buy-in. ‘Why it didn’t work’ is often more important to sales success, than why it did.

A UVA systems approach to sales success seeks to extrapolate out the strengths and weaknesses of all the ‘systems-of-influence’ at play in every selling opportunity to include, but not to be limited to things like, product, price, competition, timing, market conditions, et al. Each of these exist on a spectrum from strong to weak, likely to unlikely, good-fit to not-so-good-fit, and so on. Professional sellers and good sales managers focus on both the strengths of their UVA approach but also on the weaknesses. They question why it worked in one situation but failed in another. What was it?

This approach exists beyond the old adage of ‘We learn more by our mistakes’ and/or, ‘We fail our way to the top’. That is not to say that we don’t learn from our mistakes but the express focus of a UVA-systems-approach is to circumvent deficiencies in our methodology such that any failure-journey is minimized. Another fundamental difference is the stratagem’s emphasis on proactiveness and less on reactiveness. Put more simply, most people believe that the ‘close’ in a selling process takes place at the end of the presentation – when a customer is asked for a signature. Elite sellers know that the ‘close’ often begins before the potential customer is even contacted.

The point not to be lost here is that a UVA is not static but rather dynamic; a value-add to one customer may be completely different to another and/or no value at all. Ameliorations to our UVA must be clearly tailored to each and every customer, and that can only happen with necessary and sufficient preparation, or all we present is our sameness when compared to our competition. I have written before, “When all products and services are the same in the customer’s eyes, the only differentiator is price… and when price is the differentiator, everybody loses…even the customer.”

Bottom Line

Professional selling is both an art and a science requiring practiced skills and preparation that ultimately seeks to demonstrate desirable and exclusive benefits for customers that cannot be replicated by our competition. A Unique Value-Add need not be huge, it needs only to be different; thereby desirable in its appeal. A professional lawyer is trained to never ask a question in which, they don’t already know the answer. A professional seller, never presents a UVA that they are not already certain, differentiates them, their product or service, from that of their competition.

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