March 31

Why A “Shallow” Sales Team Can’t Sell Value


The battle cry from sales organizations is, “Sell value, not price. Be a value-added seller.” If I hear these words one more time, I’m going to put a fork in my eye! Now, that might sound a little strange coming from a person that works with sales organizations every day. But the reality is:

Most sales teams can’t sell value because they’ve never mastered the ability to do the deep work required to sell on value not price.

I was exposed to the concept of deep work by author Cal Newport. His book, Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success in A Distracted World outlines how and why many of us are engaged in shallow work, non-value-added work. He describes “shallow work” as:

“Shallow Work: Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replace.”

In the sales profession, shallow work could be described as “checkmark” selling. It’s quantity work, not qualified work.

  • I made the prospecting outreach. Check.
  • I conducted the sales meeting. Check.
  • I wrote and presented the proposal. Check.
  • I answered all my emails. Check.

It’s quantity work, shallow work, not quality work.

Selling value requires deep work which involves deep thinking and focus. It’s the exact opposite of “checkmark” selling. Salespeople that embrace deep work:

  • Take time to THINK and craft value propositions that resonate with their target prospect. They study their prospect's major initiatives, trigger events, changing demands from their customers, and gaps in the competitor's offering. They don’t give in to the pull of shallow work which is simply crafting a one-size-fits-all generic value proposition.
  • Take time to THINK about insights that will make their prospects and customers view their business through a different lens. They engage in pre-call planning and research their prospects and customers. But they take it one step further. Deep work salespeople take what they’ve learned and design thoughtful questions to ask during a sales call. They identify new insights that provoke thought and VALUE to sales conversations with prospects and customers.

Salespeople engage in deep work in order to sell value not price.

So how do CEOs and sales managers create sales cultures that avoid shallow work and thinking?

Recognize that discipline and willpower are overrated. We often think people who are capable of focus and deep work are simply more disciplined, have more willpower. Look behind the curtain and you will find that disciplined people do not have more willpower. However, they are self-aware. They recognize that their brain cannot ignore distractions such as a buzzing text, an alert, or a phone ringing. It’s biology 101. They eliminate distractions creating an environment for deep work which produces deep value.

Get clear on your one thing. We live in a world full of shiny objects and FOMO. Sales professionals run from one activity to another, frantically searching for the new magic bullet. If you are committed to doing deeper work, better work, follow Gary Keller’s advice. He is the author of The One Thing. In his book, he shares a game-changing question:

“What’s the ONE thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

Getting clear on your one thing allows you to do deeper work, the important work.

For sales managers, the one thing could be taking time to prepare for one-on-one coaching calls. Or, taking the time to plan a great group sales meeting.

It’s doing the deep work of thinking and planning for meetings rather than the shallow work of conducting ‘wing-it’ meetings. Or what I like to call ground hog day meetings.

For salespeople, it’s slowing down to analyze your business. Where are you winning business and why? Where are you losing opportunities and why? What do you need to stop doing? What do need to start doing? Nearly six in 10 salespeople say that when they figure out what works for them, they don’t change it. (Source: HubSpot)

Do the deep work and deep thinking necessary to get clear on your one thing.

If you are having trouble selling value not price, ask yourself this question. Are you and your sales team engaged in shallow work or deep work?

Good Selling!


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