What is value-added selling? 

Value-added selling is a sales practice focused on attracting and closing customers by offering a product as well as providing something added that increases the overall desirability of the product. With value-added selling, you offer a “product package” so-to-speak. This bundle joins a complimentary offering your customers find attractive to your original product. By offering a product package, you establish your uniqueness and differentiate yourself from your competition.

Unlike commodity selling, value-added selling motivates prospects and customers to choose you over other salespeople, or the Internet, freeing you from trying to convince a customer that you are the best choice. By offering complimentary products or services that address the problems and needs of your potential customers, you build trust, show you understand the customer’s situation, and provide more solutions to their problems than others.

Why is this approach best for energy? 

The reason that adding value to your sales process greatly improves your chances for successfully winning over customers is that you are selling a commodity: energy. Energy is a product that is exactly the same regardless of where it comes from or who sells it. Think about it this way, when you plug your coffee maker into the electrical socket, you aren’t expecting to receive the Rolls Royce of electricity, or some other variation. It’s all the same. Electricity is electricity.

Because electricity and natural gas are commodities, the natural tendency of any consumer is to look for the cheapest price for their desired product. This is similar to when a person goes to fill up their car’s gas tank at the pump. If they find two adjacent gas stations and one is offering a gallon a penny or two cheaper, it is highly likely that they’ll pull into that station instead of selecting the more expensive pump, right?

More recently, retail has begun to feel these “labor pains” when selling their respective products due to the consumer’s ability to price shop right from their mobile phones while in stores, and then additionally they face this challenge due to the rise in preference for online shopping. One example of a company that has done a tremendous job evolving with this change and therefore dominates online retail sales is Amazon.

How has Amazon achieved this? What can we learn from this giant’s process and replicate on a smaller scale? The driving force behind their innovative performance stems from Jeff Bezos’ core philosophy. And you guessed it, it’s a value-added selling philosophy. In an interview, Mr. Bezos explained the principles he follows and we wrote our synopsis of this technique in a post titled This Advice From Jeff Bezos Will Make You A Better Energy Consultant.

Primarily, Bezos looks at the aspects of retail that aren’t going to change in the next 10 years.

“[I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection.”

By focusing on what your customer wants, needs and has problems with, you can identify areas they will appreciate the added value and this will ultimately lead them to choose you over the competition.

The parts to value-added selling; the best way to turn prospects into customers. 

As you already now know, value-added selling has two parts: the core product and the complimentary offering. Recognizing that your core product is a commodity, you must create a strategy that uses benefits, service, and substance to elevate your product to a higher level. The placement of your value-add may be offered before the core product is introduced to build trust and credibility, alongside the core product, after the initial sale, or in some other variation.

By implementing this two-part strategy, you’ll find that customers oftentimes aren’t looking for the cheapest option. Learn more by reading Many People Don’t Want The Cheapest Option. They Want The Best Value.

“How do I add value to my sales process?” 

In the last few years, we have seen consumer behavior change. The degree to which it has changed is staggering. People communicate differently with brands and expect a deeper level of service than what was industry standard just a few years ago. The entire customer experience demands more. This change creates an opportunity in the energy arena as consumers are looking for an enhanced customer experience and yet an enhanced customer experience is not the norm.

By implementing a value-added sales process, you’ll have an advantage over your competition. This strategy will help you grow your business, retain more customers and receive more referrals than ever before.

Four ways to add value when consulting on energy:

Expertise

The first step to closing a contract is getting your foot in the door. Demonstrating your expertise in energy consulting, or on a more granular level, in a given region or business vertical (like restaurants or property management) reassures your prospects that you understand their pain points, are familiar with their business model and have experience solving their problems.

You’re a brand

Demonstrate your expertise in the field by turning yourself into a brand. No matter which energy brokerage you work through to execute contracts, you are ultimately the person with whom your customer interacts. As this is the case, your reputation becomes key to building your business. Show you are an industry expert by sharing helpful information on social media, write a blog to share your content, or provide helpful tips in emails that you periodically send to your customers illustrating such.

You’re a specialist

You might have familiarity with a given territory (your hometown for example) or industry vertical from past work experience that you can leverage when communicating with prospective customers. If you don’t, it’s not too late. All it takes is an established effort on a target market and slowly adding customers that fit within your scope. Consult with a few restaurants and you’re on your learning trajectory. You’d be surprised how quickly you can go from novice to pro. Give it a try.

By training your attention on a more specific goal, you will begin to see similarities within your targeted area. This familiarity will help you identify common problems and increase your vocabulary within that group, making it easier for you to communicate your solutions to your audience’s problems.

Collaboration

With your foot in the door, it’s time to impress your prospect by focusing on their business rather than talking about your products. At this stage in the customer’s journey, many sales professionals make the error of using content selling to win over prospects. Content selling is a sales method where the goal is educating customers on your product’s features and benefits. It is an approach that is enticing to many in energy consulting because it moves you away from selling a commodity where price is the only determining factor. The major flaw with this approach is that you don’t consider the uniqueness of your customer and his or her business. You’re throwing everything but the kitchen sink at them and “talking about yourself” in a sense, rather than learning about your prospect and their business.

As we said before, customers are more sophisticated today and are expecting more. By content selling, you run the risk of talking about benefits that your customer doesn’t need or care about as it doesn’t relate to his or her own individual needs.

In contrast, by starting the conversation with your prospect using a consultative frame of mind, you begin by discovering who your customer is, what they need and what they expect from working with you. Ask questions, listen more and talk less. Check out our post on The 4 Skills That Make A Great Salesperson to better understand how to successfully navigate this initial contact phase.

Education

You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone that doesn’t have experience paying for electricity or natural gas, so everyone you speak to has some knowledge on the subject. The funny thing about these two energy sources, however, is that they are necessary to function in modern society and have been regulated for over a century. This formula has created an environment where consumers generally don’t think about energy; they simply pay the bill.

Since your prospects and customers are very familiar with your product, currently use your product, yet know almost nothing about your product, you have an opportunity to educate them. Education illustrates your expertise and gives your clients control over a business expense that for so long has been completely unmanageable.

Strategy

With education comes strategy. Knowing that you can do something is one thing, but knowing what to do is another. And there is a lot more to energy consulting than just brokering electricity and natural gas if you so choose. Energy cost has two components. The first – and most obvious part; a business pays a certain rate for the energy they use. By helping a business secure a competitive rate for their energy, you are able to assist in controlling this cost. But don’t stop short by simply switching a customer’s energy rate. Provide them with the tools they need to manage how much energy they use. This is the second part. Educate them on ways to reduce the amount of energy consumed through energy efficiency.

Need some help doing this? Read our post Reduce Energy Costs Through Energy Efficiency With These 3 Steps and How Can An Energy Consultant Help An Organization Save Energy And Money.

Make a plan

With the basic methods listed, it is now time to formulate a plan for how you will express this message to your prospects. Consider this your outline before writing an essay. You’ll be using this message to keep you focused as you turn your attention towards building your business, but also it will serve as your declaration for your prospects and customers. You now need to create your value proposition.

Learn how to create your value proposition by reading What Is A Value Proposition And How Do I Create One?

Looking for more? Check out our post entitled: How Energy Brokers Win Contracts By Competing On More Than Just Price and 5 Methods Guaranteed To Differentiate You From The Competition.

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