The one thing many leaders fail to understand is that logical decision-making is anything but logical. That’s what makes determining and creating value so elusive, vague, and hard. Before we can explain how exactly value is derived, it’s important to understand the rather illogical decision-making process behind purchase motivation.
What Guides Our Decisions?
If we analyze our brain structure, we’ll find that the human brain has evolved. Traditionally, our primitive brain has guided us based on egotistical, emotional, and self-fish instinct, fueled by ‘survival of the fittest’ principles.
Over the years, as humans evolved we started to develop a rational, modern brain, which helps us analyze and logically structure our decisions. However, research shows that while our modern brain helps rationalize and analyze our decisions, the emotional brain has a bigger impact in the decision making.
This can be demonstrated with the elephant/rider analogy developed by a famous social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt. The elephant is the emotional brain, while the rider is our logical, modern brain. The logical brain is conscious, rational, and processes verbal speech. The emotional brain on the other hand is subconscious, processing emotions and feelings. If we look at the sheer size comparison of the elephant and the rider, we can see that if the elephant decides it “wants something” it will be really hard for the rider to do anything about it, except try and rationalize the decision to help make logical sense of it. As Jonathan Haidt describes, "the rider evolved to serve the elephant".
Image Reference: ReadyToManage
In practice, this means that even though people will provide “rational” arguments for their decisions, more often than not, it is the elephant that motivates our decision—that is what we mean when we talk about emotions in sales. The question then becomes how do we determine what this value is? And how do we use it to be more persuasive?
The Means-End Value Chain Theory
In the 1960s, clinical psychologists developed an interviewing technique, called laddering, to try and understand people’s core values and beliefs. This technique was then later adapted by marketers and developed into the Means-End Value Chain. The idea is that if the visceral, emotional brain is guiding our decision-making and our rational brain is supporting them with functional arguments for a decision, then we can’t rely on what people say to be the real decision-driver. In fact, when asked why someone chose to purchase a product, they will usually stick to high-level product features and benefits as the initial response simply because they don’t know exactly how to address the abstract and emotional reason for their purchase.
Means-End Value Chain
The Means-End Chain theory argues that “If we can uncover what specific, deeply held personal value is triggered, then the motivation behind a category behavior can be mapped and serve as a template for strategy thinking.” The theory then asserts that buyers see products as a means to a desired end-state (motivated by the elephant) and that we make decisions according to a lateral movement from product specific towards more abstract end-state goals that are self-focused.
So, while the rational components of Attribute and Benefit are still key, a decision becomes more personally relevant if it will help realize the person’s core value and desired-end state. This is where value creation happens and how sales people can become more persuasive.
Relevant Article: Value Selling: The Difference Between Features, Benefits, and Value
Determining Underlying Product Value
The laddering interviewing technique guides a person through the value chain with a structured set of questioning, each intended to go one level deeper.
To get to the underlying value of your product features, keep asking “Why is this important?” to unlock the emotional purchasing component. Below is an example of the laddering technique applied to the value of an SUV.
Image Reference: RockResearch
Three Ways to Use the Laddering Technique
- Hold a brainstorming secession with your sales team and ask them to role-play as the customer.
- Interview some of your top customers to try and understand why they value your products or services.
- Use the technique on yourself and try to figure out why you find your product valuable beyond features and benefits.
Relevant Article: The Secret Tool Every Sales Leaders Needs to Transform Sales Team
At Sales Result, Inc. we have developed a methodology backed by research and field application to help sales reps easily visualize, create, and natural weave-in value. If you’re interested in building a sales foundation based on value creation and selling, request a complimentary 30-minute consultation with one of our expert consultants.