Helping salespeople compete on value rather than price

A major office supplies distributor is growing its margin by helping its sales reps gain financial understanding

Key results

  • Improved margins within 2 quarters
  • Improved ability to communicate value to customers
  • New pricing agreements based on value


As part of a strategic decision to shift from operating simply as a U.S. office supplies distributor to becoming a business solutions company, this organization invested in technology, supply chain management, office design capabilities, and other value-added services to improve customer productivity, efficiency, and profitability.

To continue to fund these investments and profitably expand their business, the company needed to achieve higher margins. They discovered that their front-line sales leaders and salespeople lacked a strong understanding of business finance. As a result, they tended to compete on price, which led to continued margin pressure.

The company determined that their managers needed financial insight training and coaching to build their confidence and skills to sell business-valued services instead of commodity products.


Profitable Selling recommended a financial acumen workshop, customized to the company’s business, to engage sales leaders in understanding and communicating the key financial levers that directly impact profitability. A total of 130 managers participated in the workshop, which centered around a simulation that engaged them in running a mock business for 3 fiscal years.

During the simulation, managers made key decisions regarding growth, expenses, labor, inventories, A/R and more. They also completed exercises built around their key levers and learned how to protect margins and deliver value for customers. Managers also gained tools to communicate what they learned with their salespeople to increase their understanding of the key profit drivers they can influence with customers.


Sales managers reported immediate improvements in how their salespeople communicated value to their customers, defended their pricing, and negotiated renewal pricing agreements based on value. The company experienced a lift in margins within the first 2 quarters following the workshops. They continue to develop the framework to drive the desired skills transformation and behavioral outcomes through ongoing reinforcement and adoption programs.

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