The Value Add

Having been in sales most of my life, I have obviously learned a few tricks of the trade. Whether I was selling lemonade as a kid, myself as a model-actress, or property as a real estate representative, there was one common trick: I loved my clients way more than my products or services. Hugely successful business owners/entrepreneurs get this without a doubt. They constantly ask this one simple question: “How can we add more value?”

It does not matter what business you are in: if you are asking customers/clients to purchase your products or services, then you should be adding massive value to them—more than any of your competitors. Whatever you are selling, you want to promise your clients that they can expect the absolute best, or guess what? They’ll leave and go somewhere else.

This gets tricky for business owners. Most owners I work with will say, “But we are the best; the client just does not understand.” We live in a time when people have choices about where they will spend their money. They will leave you unless you make them a raving fan. Guess what raving fans do? They tell all their friends.

One strike against your business can take months to reverse, so if you can constantly add more value, you will not have to do much damage control. How do I know this? From many ups and downs in business. I started to see patterns: where I may have let things slip or was not as organized as usual.

I once heard a great story about real estate developer Steve Wynn, which I confirmed during a lunch with his ex-wife, Elaine. Wynn spent most of his time with the service people. He would start with the people parking cars, the valets. Why? They were the first people to welcome guests to Wynn’s resort. Being there at the start of the guests’ journey, they heard the complaints firsthand. Wynn got a lot of his information from the valets; he actually listened to what they had to say and took their suggestions to heart.

Value Adds Make Raving Fans

The employees who worked for Wynn knew the number one rule is to add massive value. Successful businesses leave clues, and I pick up on those clues. Even in my boutique life-insurance business, I was constantly thinking of ways to stand out and add more value for my busy clients. That’s why, in 2012, I was the top life agent and was able to join the Million Dollar Round Table (which is very old school and mostly men).

I do not tell you this to impress you; I tell you this because I have been selling other business owners’ products and services most of my life. I have never created a product to sell. I come in and sell the heck out of yours! A lot goes into selling, but the biggest roadblock I have come up against is owners who are not curious about what clients want. Owners’ perspectives can make it very difficult to sell their products and services.

I ran into this when I was selling print procurement in New York. The business owner would not budge on certain things; as a result, a lot of the clients I had acquired went somewhere else. Or prices were not competitive or the owner did not like certain things in our agreement. Having conversations with the head of the company got me nowhere fast. But the lessons were invaluable for me. I kept track of feedback from people who took a meeting with me. I am one of those people who like to know what I can do better.

I have been in all sorts of different sales positions throughout my life. The best way to get results is to listen to feedback, do not take anything personally, be open to coaching, be in love with the customers who are purchasing your product or service, and keep adding massive value.

Back to the Basics

If your business is going through some growing pains, you may want to look at everything. Growing pains are tough; they’re also opportunities for growth and learning. If you have been in business for many years, you and your business practices might be slightly outdated. What worked five years ago does not work today. Business procedures are changing more rapidly than ever. The small businesses that are embracing the changes are adapting to the new ways that people are grasping information.

Here is a great thing to do if you are going through growing pains. Go back to the basics. Ask yourself, What do I do? Then ask, What do I really do? Finally, take it a step further by asking, What should I be doing?

This is a great exercise for knowing exactly what you do and making what you do really count. Here is an example from when I did this exercise many years ago. I used to tell people, “I sell life insurance.” Yep, that is what I did. But what did I really do? “I prepare my clients for unexpected life events.” The exercise gets us back to what we really do, not logically but in our heart and soul. I believe that business is a spiritual game.

The Value of Feedback

If you are not constantly asking for feedback, like Wynn did daily when he ran his most famous casinos, you are missing out on free information. Put your ego aside and take in feedback that could help save your business or rejuvenate your relationships with your clients. I have a pretty good track record of following up and asking my clients a lot of questions. Building relationships with clients is the best way to turn them into raving fans.

If you are in sales, you know you’re going to hear no 80 percent of the time. But in my world, no means maybe. Relax—you have a great product. Keep building those relationships; in my experience, people always come back at some point, unless you pushed them so far away they cannot ever come back. Leave the door open for people to reenter. Do not be pushy; be a guide. Whether you are a coach, teacher, or business owner, always be open to feedback and change. Ask yourself, Am I keeping up with what is happening in today’s world? If your approach is “This is how we have always done it,” you are likely holding on to outdated beliefs.

The fact that something worked thirty, twenty, or ten years ago doesn’t mean it still works. Get back to what you really do. How can you best serve your clients and add value? I have spent almost three years growing, learning, and looking back on my life. For me, life coaching is all about getting new perspectives.

I stepped away from sales during COVID. Now that I am back, I am observing more than ever the things that I write about. I find it fascinating to watch people get in their own way because they are not open to feedback or they want to tell me every reason why their client is wrong. Guess what? In sales, the client is never wrong. If you believe otherwise, you’ll lose a raving fan—and you cannot have that!

Even if customers leave, you want them to leave knowing they can come back. Nordstrom had the best return policy for years. You could bring anything back. It worked: it made customers raving fans and everyone talked about how Nordstrom will take anything back. I remember this as if it were yesterday, but it was the early 1980s. It was a genius business model. What Nordstrom was really saying was that it isn’t worth losing a client over a pair of shoes. Nordstrom knew intuitively that when you allow people to be right—in this case, to return the shoes—they will end up buying more.

There was a lot of trust between Nordstrom and its customers. People were not afraid to spend their money there. Be the place or service people that cannot live without. That is the value add!

Deborah Driggs

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