For regular readers, you probably are wondering, I’ve long talked about the importance of value creation. Recently, there has been quite a bit of discussion about this following my post Can Sales Create Value, both on this blog and at Customerthink. I encourage you to read the comments/discussion. They are perhaps better than the original post.

I’ve been reminded by a few people that we create value with the customer, not for the customer. Lest you think this is wordsmithing, it’s an important distinction.

Often, we think of creating value by provoking the customer to think differently about their business. Whether it’s insight we provide, something we teach, identifying opportunities they may be missing, or pointing out problems they may not realize they are having.

Until we capture their attention or imaginations, until they respond, “Tell me more,” or, “I think that’s BS,” we don’t have them engaged. Without that engagement, change is impossible and no value can be created. Our attempts at creating value are nothing more than opinions or pitches falling on deaf ears.

So it always takes two to tangle when we talk about value creation. And that’s where the real magic actually happens. The conversations, debate, shared problem-solving we engage in with the customer always creates far better outcomes. It’s in the process of sharing ideas, looking at alternatives, challenging each other’s premises and biases that the real learning and innovation occur.

Consequently, it only makes sense to create value with the customer, not for the customer.

Having said this, it is incumbent on the salesperson to do everything possible to initiate this process, to provoke the idea, to start the dialog, conversation, collaboration.

Too often, our customers just don’t know, and why should they? After all, their jobs are not to be experts in solving these problems. Their jobs are to run their businesses, achieving the goals and results they expect.

Customers may initiate these conversations, but we can’t wait for them. They may never get there, they may get there too slowly—consequently losing tremendous opportunity.

I suppose if one really looks at things, we never can do something “for” a customer, or anyone for that matter. Change requires the active engagement of everyone involved.