Selling the value of products or services is a frequently neglected part of companies' sales and marketing mix

Deloitte Belgium's first Sales & Marketing conference points out

Brussels, 8 June 2012 - Selling the value of a product or service is an area of growing importance given the current economic and financial crisis, which is exerting downward pressure on prices as customers look to cut costs. And it is particularly relevant for Belgium, where costs are high and taxes are high, making it tough to compete on price alone. That was one of the main agenda points of the Deloitte Sales & Marketing Conference which took place yesterday in Brussels for over 70 Sales and Marketing professionals. The Deloitte Consulting experts pointed out that Belgium has a large service economy and therefore has considerable potential for progress in terms of selling value. Key aspects of selling value include putting yourself in the client's shoes, to try to understand their business, the impact the particular good or service can have on it and to come up with coherent, consistent and convincing messages. And there is definite room for improvement for Belgian companies.

Western Europe is moving more and more towards what consultant Joseph Pine has dubbed 'the experience economy'. From being an economy based on extracting commodities (e.g. agriculture), it has moved through the industrial revolution into the current service economy phase in which customers are paying for their experience and not just the service. "Starbucks is a classic example of that," said Koen De Staercke, Partner at Deloitte Consulting and Head of the Consumer Business Group at Deloitte. "Adding services around particular goods is a key way to differentiate oneself from competition in the marketplace. Few companies listen to clients about what they value and determine what they are willing to pay for a particular service," said De Staercke. "There's a lot of room for improvement here."

Another key point is that, once a company has established the value, it needs to ensure that it is communicating its messages around this to clients in a consistent way. Currently, price today tends to be a cost plus based strategy and not a value-based strategy. Listening to customers can lead to a value-driven strategy. Another important aspect is the effective cost to serve customers, which might include aspects such as warehousing costs and sales organisation. Most companies do it for their top five or ten companies but not for the others. "Deloitte believes in transaction level analysis. You need to look behind averages and to look at product/customer combination to get real insights. Changing behaviour in sales is not easy but is very important and can and should be done", said De Staercke.

Dirk Peeters, Director at Deloitte Consulting, stressed that successful brands offer a benefit that is relevant, differentiated from the competition and done in a credible manner. Key is to have a 'big bang benefit' focusing on one relevant and differentiating benefit. He suggested that companies should "try to dominate in one domain, focus on that one and claim/own it, perhaps have a differentiating element in a second domain and then be on a par with competition on the others. Consistency of message is very important". Examples include Apple's delivery and use in its communications of "an exceptional experience through superb user interfaces", and car manufacturer BMW's focus on "sheer driving pleasure". A good example of a company offering emotional and functional benefits is Nike. On the functional side, Nike offers different shoes for running on different types of ground and does a lot of research on this functional benefit. Dirk Peeters noted that functional benefits can be copied and so "innovation power is important in order to stay one or two steps ahead of the competition".

Measuring the impact of communication on brand experience and what prevents a business from converting brand experience into market share and adapting communication to different members of the decision making unit in B2B sales are two other important points to bear in mind. According to Vincent Fosty, Partner at Deloitte Consulting, value selling is also about developing a new set of capabilities. Fosty: "This might take the form of what Siemens does, offering complex solutions to help companies automate production processes in many industries. It might be about doing research into how different types of lighting affect consumer buying behavior in supermarkets. The right lighting can improve customer experience in hotel rooms or bars or can make an employee need less heating because it gives him/her an increased perception of warmth".