Tell me, what is that you sell to your customers?

Boss: Peter, today I am going to ask you a very difficult question.

Peter: I am quite curious, Boss.

Boss: Peter: what is it that we sell?

Peter: What have you been smoking, boss? You don’t remember our products any more, our services. You want me to give you some product brochures to freshen up your memory? You can also have a look at our pricelist, of at our website, you know.

Boss: I am not retarded, Peter. I will repeat the question again: what is it that we sell?

Peter: Well, you know, what our customers buy, I guess.

Boss: So what do they buy?

Peter: Our computer equipment, our software, our services.

Boss: Sure they do, but why?

Peter: Because they need it, because they need to keep their business running, because they have to service their customers. That’s why they buy our stuff.

Boss: So, we help them to improve their business. They now work faster, more efficient, make less mistakes, have less rework to do.

Peter: Yes, they save costs and make more more money, all thanks to us.

Boss: Peter, we sell value to our customers! That value lies in the quality of our products, in the expertise of our service people, in the benefits we give to our customers.

Peter: I always thought we were in the computer business. You say we are in the value delivery business. Interesting idea, Boss. But why do you still measure me on units sold, on the amount of service contracts. You should measure me on the value I create for my customers. My salary would look much more interesting.

Boss: We will discuss that another time, Peter. Have you ever heard of the Total Value Experience?

Peter: No, but I guess you are going to tell me all about it.

Boss: The value experience a customer has with its supplier is like an onion.

Peter: What ever you say. You’re sure it is not a tomato?!

Boss: Don’t be ridiculous, Peter. By onion I mean it has many layers.

Peter: Oh, in that sense, of course.

Boss: In the middle you have the product. Around the product, you have a layer of services. Then you have a layer of research and development creating new products. Around all that you have our branding, the name and reputation of our company, the trust we inspire, the financial stability we have. And then, finally we have an outer layer, Peter. What do you think that is? It starts with a P.

Peter: Profit, price……

Boss: No Peter, You. It is you. The sales people who help, advice our customers. You are part of our value creation process. You, see, there’s various reasons why people buy from us: our products, our services, our research and development, our innovations, our brand, and our sales people. Remember: Value = Benefit – Cost

Peter: So, we sell solutions to the problems of our customers?

Boss: Voila. That is what we do: solution selling, or value selling. It is impossible to do this of course without a good questioning that has revealed the needs and problems of the customer.

Peter: I see.

Boss: Every customer has four basic buying motifs or needs.

Peter: Oh does he?

Boss: Look at your self as a customer, Peter. What is important to you when you buy a car?

Peter: It needs to be safe. That’s for sure. It needs to be fast. It musn’t cost too much, and it must be comfortable.

Boss: Perfect, Peter. You have just defined the four basic buying motifs:





When we look at the way customers buy, you will see that those four criteria need to be met.

Peter: What does this mean for our computer systems, Boss?

Boss: Customers want them to be reliable, robust, available all the time. They want high quality products, good service people they can trust. On time delivery is important, no bugs in the software. They want CERTAINTY on all those levels.

Peter: What about performance?

Boss: Our solutions need to be PERFORMANT, fast and efficient, thus reducing the processing time of the documents. They help people to do their work quicker, more efficient.

Peter: FINANCE, so it must be cheap.

Boss: No, that is not what I am saying. FINANCE means value for money. Our solutions must contribute to the reduction of costs, and be instrumental in generating more revenue, or creating more margin.

Peter: How can we do that? I mean, our solutions cost fortunes. They cost the customer a lot of money.

Boss: Money they invest in more performance, in cost saving, and improvement of productivity. Thanks to our CRM system, they now sell more, don’t they. A clear ROI, Peter. Up to to quantify and proof it.

Peter: Guess so.

Boss: And then there is CONVENIENCE. Our solution must be easy to work with, we must be easy to work with, we must take away the worries of our customers.

If we can prove to our customers that we can deliver Certainty, Performance, Finance and Convenience, then they feel comfortable buying from us.

Peter: Customers buy value.

Boss: This is what customers are looking for:

Increased manufacturing yields/throughput & capacity.

Reduced labor/raw material/transportation costs.

Lower warehousing/inventory/working capital costs.

Lower utility/insurance/environmental costs.

Lower investments/infrastructure costs.

Less downtime/less scrap/lower replacement parts.

Time savings/speed advantages.

Access to new markets/revenue growth.


Peter: Never knew we sold all this stuff.

For more sales stories, see Jan Flamend, Keep calm and sell your socks off, De Cavalerie, 2014. You can buy this book at

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