Beyond Value: How to Become Invaluable to Your Foodservice Customers

As sellers, we are continually told to sell value and to let our prospects know about all of our value-added services. After all, that is how we are going to win the sales. Right?

Not necessarily. Value is relative. It’s in the eye of the beholder. So much depends on how the decision makers you’re dealing with perceive “value.”

To be successful in today’s business environment, you may need to become invaluable to your customers.

Customers can be segmented into three different types based on their perceptions of value and what you can do to increase your effectiveness when working with them.

Commodity Buyers
These buyers know exactly what they want and how to use it. They do not need sellers to explain the details. Commodity buyers typically value:

  • Low costs. They do not want to pay any more than necessary. To be successful with these buyers, companies need to pull as many costs as they can out of their supply chain.
  • No hassles. Make it simple, simple, simple to do business with your company. Give them an 800 number, send quick quotes, or allow easy online ordering and they’re happy.

We are all commodity buyers at times. As a seller, there’s little you can do to create value or sell “value add.” Make it cheaper, simpler to order, delivered to my door and with easy returns.

E.g. books, hairnets, aprons, etc…

Strategic Buyers
These people are looking far beyond the scope of your products or services. They want a strategic partnership. They are looking at how to best leverage their organization’s core competencies in combination with another company’s core competencies. These buyers value:

  • Intimate and strategic relationships between multiple levels within both organizations.
  • Mutual investments in joint projects.
  • Merging of systems to accomplish more than either organization could do alone.

E.g., design consultants with equipment manufacturers, branding concept within a hospital retail venue.

Invested Buyers
These buyers are either spending a lot of money on a decision or they do not know everything there is to know about what they’re buying. Typically, their decision process is complex, involves multiple people and takes place over an extended period.
If corporate decision makers are seriously considering your product or service, they assume it meets their basic requirements and that your organization is reputable. Having a decent offering gets you in the game, but does not typically provide enough value to win the business.

In fact, with these buyers, the seller creates the value by what they personally bring to the relationship. These buyers value sellers who:

  • Help them understand their problems in greater depth.
  • Add additional insights into the challenges they face.
  • Offer solutions
  • Share relevant information regarding “best practices.”
  • Develop unique, innovative approaches to resolving their business issues.
  • Keep them up-to-date on trends in the industry and how others are addressing them.
  • Help them find ways around the obstacles they’re encountering, and
  • Propose new ways to do more with the same investment.

E.g.: major foodservice equipment, meal delivery solutions, cooking systems, dishwashers, etc.

Becoming an Invaluable Resource
What makes a seller invaluable? The ability to contribute so much more with each and every customer interaction – so much so that they can’t imagine doing business without you.

Here are some more ways that you, as the seller could become invaluable to your customers. You could:

  • Share ideas about other what works, what doesn’t.
  • Help them find ways to increase the results of their existing programs.
  • Show them how to reduce the overall costs of the program while maintaining its effectiveness and integrity.
  • Let them know what their competitors are doing.
  • Develop ways to increase the quality of their programs or venues.
  • Proposing ideas for new programs to help them achieve their desired marketing results.
  • Acting as an advocate within your own organization on issues impacting the customer.
  • Better warranties
  • On time delivery
  • Post sale training and follow up

To become invaluable, you must bring more to the relationship than just your standard product or service. What you want to create is a situation where corporate decision makers cannot live without your ideas, insights, and knowledge.

Becoming invaluable doesn’t just “happen.” You need to invest in yourself. Learn more about your customer’s business. Figure out how to help them improve it. Be an idea generator. Become an expert in your field. It takes a real commitment on your part.

Only the best make that commitment. But it truly sets them apart from everyone else and literally makes them invaluable

How do you make your customer’s job easier? More profitability? Efficient?

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