We’ve talked about value in a lot of different ways through the years. We’ve evolved from creating value through products to creating value through products and services, then through a products-service-information combination.

We often talk about it as co-creating value for customers, the idea that a salesperson can only create access to value, and that the customer must be involved in order for them to “experience” value.

Maybe it’s just semantics, but I’m not sure I like the idea of creating value for the customer. It makes it sounds like there are little value elves in a shop somewhere creating bags of value and the salesperson throws a bag or two on top of whatever they just sold. Doing something for someone has connotations about giving, like it’s something unexpected, like the receiver should be grateful.

Certainly, there are aspects of value that are “extra.” Many salespeople are known for their passion for customers, which they demonstrate by grabbing the end of a shovel, or helping move equipment around so they can finish a field before the rain comes.

These activities represent the social, community-minded work ethic of our industry and are a source of pride for many of us. It’s good business to build strong relationships. Doing something “extra” is almost always appreciated, and it helps to communicate to a customer that we care about them beyond delivering a product.

But as agriculture becomes more complex and requires that farms employ more people, the awareness of a salesperson who did something to “go above and beyond” in one part of the operation may never get to a decision maker in another part of the operation.

Even if the effort is seen, we have to wonder how much it affects the buying decision. If we do something “extra” in the spring, will they still remember it in the fall, when our services cost a few pennies more than a competitor’s services?

For a relationship buyer, that extra effort may affirm how much the salesperson cares about them. But business-oriented buyers may be a little more quantitative in how they measure value. Though they may appreciate the help, they might see more value from a salesperson who adds value to their operation rather than doing something for it. Let me describe this nuance with an example. If we use the marketing term “positioning” to describe how the customer views the salesperson, a salesperson who creates value for the customer may hold a position in the customer’s mind like:

“Jordan really helps me out, and he even pitches in when he sees that I need help.”

But, a salesperson who thinks about adding value to the customer’s operation may gain a position like:

“As a result of Jordan’s efforts, my operation is worth more today. I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”

A customer may appreciate you answering your phone late at night when they’ve got a problem, but they may not believe that contributes much to their success.

The message here isn’t that we shouldn’t try to do extra. It is worthwhile to have the customer see us as helpful and hardworking. But it’s a great mental exercise to occasionally ask ourselves how our customers’ businesses are improved as a result of the value we add to them. When we can help a customer quantify that value according to the metrics they care about most, that’s when we know we’re really adding value.

So, how do you add value for your customers?