B2B Sales Process: Understanding the Customer’s Business


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I’ve seen many organizations spend countless man-hours and dollars making certain everyone on their sales team fully understands their company’s product and service offerings. “Product specialists” with a significant depth of knowledge on certain technologies, feature-sets, and/or functions have become the norm for many companies trying to find ways to differentiate their approach and provide additional value to their prospects and customers. When queried, these masters can quote chapter and verse from product and service manuals inches thick. Unfortunately, we are molding these folks to be better technologists, not better business people.

Do You Feel Lucky?

Reps who are trained to be “Technologists” have a tendency to approach their customers with boatloads of technology trying to determine whether or not any of it is seen as beneficial by the customer. It is as if they are a solution in search of a problem. Sometimes they get lucky, most times not. Once again, these reps can be walking/talking product manuals, but if asked, most couldn’t tell you their customer’s business vision, goals, plans, processes, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

The Real Differentiator?

In many, if not most situations, THE ONLY true differentiator of products and services will be the amount of measurable impact they have on what customers are trying to accomplish as a business. If we don’t know their vision, goals, plans, etc., we end up being just another vendor peddling the same basic products and services as others. As a result, customers may perceive there are little, if any, significant differences in our offering. In those cases, if they make a decision to buy, price becomes the determining factor. Sales organizations that have BUSINESS conversations and understand how their customers measure success BEFORE talking about products and services become better partners. These reps are able to provide significant strategic value by demonstrating measurable impact on things like their customer’s productivity and efficiency, image, expenses, revenue, safety, security and stability.

Technologist or Valued Business Partner?

Here are some questions to ask to determine whether you are becoming “technologists” or valuable business partners:

  • Does your sales process/methodology provide a foundation for your sales people to understand the customer’s business first?
  • Are you or your sales people talking to a broad spectrum of people in your customer’s business outside of IT and/or purchasing?
  • Do you or your sales people know the vision, goals, plans, processes, strengths, weaknesses, etc. of your customers OUTSIDE the realm of your company’s products and services?
  • Are you or your sales people regularly invited to your customer’s business to discuss their driving business issues as a strategic partner BEFORE there is an obvious need for what you sell?

By focusing on our customers first, we can develop a deeper understanding of what they are trying to accomplish and bring capabilities that help them achieve their broader business objectives. In the process, we will sell more, and do so more efficiently than ever before.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Bob Sanders
Bob Sanders serves as President and COO of AXIOM. He is dedicated to advancing the effectiveness and professionalism of sales people and the companies that employ them. He has helped dozens of companies, hundreds of managers and thousands of sellers to increase their sales results and improve customer satisfaction. Bob is co-author of AXIOM's "Selling Sciences Program™" workbook and audio program. Prior to joining AXIOM, he ran the marketing organization for Sprint Products Group, a division of Sprint North Supply. In this capacity, he lead the company through a complete marketing overhaul.


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