Don’t Pitch. Educate!


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I’ve recently completed a number of “Buyer’s Journey” exercises for clients, all of whom are focused on selling high-tech solutions to business buyers, and one theme emerges consistently – buyers love to learn, but hate being sold to.

First, I’d better explain what the “Buyer’s Journey” involves. It’s a structured survey approach that tries to understand the key moments of truth in every buying cycle as the buyers evolve from being untroubled and unaware they have an issue, through various twists and turns in their search for a solution, to the point where they finally regard the problem as having been solved.

These buyers reported that what got a vendor considered in the first place were values like innovation, creativity, their ability to be thought provoking and to appear knowledgeable – and being recommended by others. When they were looking for solutions, they tended to use terms which related to the business issues they faced, not product features.

Once the buying process was seriously underway, their priorities seemed to change, and values like experience, referencability, affordability and the confidence that the solution and the vendor were future-proof came to the fore.

… and for many of them, their requirements evolved significantly through the buying process – in many cases stimulated by a smart vendor that shared their experience of similar situations. The buyer wanted to learn, and they valued being educated.

Of course, reference studies and case studies are a traditional part of the sales person’s armoury, but what really seems to work is the sales persons ability to tell stories in a natural way. Just as salespeople who can empathise with their prospects tend to do better, it seems to me that vendors who can align with their target market’s business issues will create a platform for success.

I’d summarise the lessons for those of us who support clients with a complex B2B sales process as

* Buyers love learning, but hate being sold to
* They search for solution to problems, not products
* Vendors who focus on issues rather than products earn respect
* Messages need to evolve as the buying journey advances
* Storytelling generates empathy and trust – and can be taught

Let me know how this tallies with your own experiences!

Bob Apollo
Bob Apollo is the CEO of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, the B2B sales performance improvement specialists. Following a varied corporate career, Bob now works with a rapidly expanding client base of B2B-focused growth-phase technology companies, helping them to implement systematic sales processes that drive predictable revenue growth.


  1. Bob, loved your insight “they tended to use terms which related to the business issues they faced, not product features.”

    Do you recommend ways that your clients can create the “educating” environment opportunities in which to engage their prospects/customers? Do you think there are ways to pre-empt the RFP kind of process?

  2. One of the techniques my clients have found to be very effective (and a great way of leveraging the information gathered during the Buyer’s Journey discovery process) is to develop issues-based marketing campaigns which focus on the topics we learn are most urgent for their prospective clients.

    These campaigns deliberately adopt a soft-selling, educational tone of voice, and incorporate customer anecdotes and industry data that support the points the vendor is making. Usually, the call to action is an opportunity to continue the education process. I have found that these campaigns can be very effective in helping influence the buyer’s agenda.

    An with regard to pre-empting the RFP process – I had a great example when talking to the head of a government department about their purchase of a mobile system. The vendor had done such a good job of creating urgency through an issues-based approach that the buyer champion was able to make a “special case” that they couldn’t afford to wait and needed to set the usual RFP process to be set aside – thus accelerating the purchase by 4-6 months at minimum.


    Bob Apollo | Inflexion-Point
    Building Scalable Businesses


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