Oilfield service companies are experiencing the toughest selling environment in years. Rig count is down, budgets are cut, and there is extreme pressure on pricing.

Winning work is critical to keeping equipment and staff utilized, but not every sale will go to the lowest bidder. How does your sales team adopt a value selling approach that positions the company's products and services in the best light against the competition and win the scarce opportunities, even with reduced margins?

Firstly, value sellers know how to diagnose the customer's challenge by using open, probing questions—the who, why, what, where and when questions. Any question that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no is an opportunity for the customer to discuss their challenges, economic impact and potential solutions.

During this conversation many customers will insist that price is their top priority. Today, price is as important as ever, but to uncover customers' true value drivers, skilled sellers also know how to ask the vital "True Colors" probe: "If everyone is the same price, how do you choose?" The answer to this question uncovers critical operational, relationship, safety or performance issues that help the seller create the best fit solution at the right price: the prognosis.

Secondly, in recommending a solution—the prognosis—top sellers also know how to clearly articulate their value proposition and key differentiators. They are drilled in it but have the skill to own the key points and make it part of their natural vocabulary. When challenged, they can deftly handle objections and elegantly close the deal.

As the industry has adjusted to the new reality of sustained low oil prices, we may have reached the point where service price wars are now at a stalemate and the only hope of long-term survival is in a value selling approach.