Here’s one of the most common mistakes I see startups committing when doing B2B sales. They assume that selling to businesses literally means selling to businesses. It doesn’t. Selling to businesses is multidimensional. You’re selling to:
In an ideal world, you’d focus on selling on all three levels. In the real world (where you’re operating with limited time and resources) you’ll often have to prioritize.
What do you think, which is the most important level to sell on?
When you’re qualifying the needs of the buyer, whose needs exactly are you eliciting? Do you learn about the company’s needs? The department’s needs? The individual’s needs?
Let’s look at these three in more detail.
These are the needs of the company you’re selling to. Here are some typical examples of company needs:
These are the needs of the specific department you’re selling into. Among these needs are:
These are the needs of the actual decision maker—or the internal champion who will “help” the decision maker to make the right choice. Among the needs of this person are often:
I recently talked about this with Gary Vaynerchuk:
You can watch the whole segment of the interview on B2B sales here.
There’s a great story about the importance of individual buyer needs when selling to large organizations in Ben Horowitz’ book The Hard Thing About Hard Things:
In this case, they ended up buying a whole company just to meet one of Frank's needs. If you haven’t read the book yet I recommend you do so now.
Sometimes the needs of the individual buyer are aligned with the company and department level needs, but many times they are not. Many times what the company wants and what the individual buyer wants is in conflict with each other. What do you do in a situation like this?
If your product/service actually provides massive value to the company, then by all means do give the individual buyer what they need to make the decision in your favor.
Let’s say the buyer wants to get a job at another company. If he’s a talented employee, that’s obviously not in the interest of the purchasing company. If the overall value you deliver outweighs the downside, you should still make it happen.
Again, Gary put it clearly:
If you’ve got a good steak, make the spark and the sizzle whatever it needs to be.
When you’re selling, adjust your value proposition so that it fits the individual’s needs best. It’s harder to do this because you need to establish some real rapport.
You have to get the person to open up, which requires a deeper-level conversation than talking just about company needs—but that’s exactly why so few people do it, and why it will give you an advantage over other vendors.
Have a question or comment? Tweet at me! :)
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