Even if you have a product, you have to sell it like a service.

No one likes to be sold to. No one likes to marketed to either. We are bombarded at every click and every page by relentless and unwanted persuasion, which has presented most B2B sales and marketing professionals with a massive problem.

We have something really useful, that would clearly help thousands of companies, but our potential customers are suspicious of anyone and anything that fills their inboxes, social feeds and voicemails with unsolicited offers.

How do we cut through the tsunami of noisy spam?

I just read a really insightful article ‘The Day I sat with Sales’, by Box software engineer Ben Trombley.

Ben’s unplanned seat-move taught him, not only that salespeople can be intelligent, caring and nice, but also that the Willy Loman style salesman really is either dead or dying. High-powered charm and forceful persuasion neither work, nor are they acceptable.

“No one spends their company’s money without consultation.”

I can’t remember where I first heard that line, so I’m claiming it as my own, but it goes to the heart of the way you have to do business with other businesses.

If I’m spending someone else’s money, I need to know that I’m spending it with a safe pair of hands. One of the best ways of judging a safe pair of hands is to see how well they understand your business and/or how quickly and skillfully they learn about the challenges you face.

This paragraph from Ben’s article hit the nail perfectly.

What I was seeing at Box was the new breed of sales, which Dixon and Adamson branded the “challenger” salesperson. Their goal was to deeply understand the customer’s business and to teach them how they could do better using Box. They were absolutely still selling Box, but they were only effective it actually solved their customers’ problems.”

I work with a lot of B2B tech companies and nearly all of them could best describe their products and services as ‘solving business problems with technology’.

And in those two paragraphs lies the answer for B2B sales and marketing professionals. You have to treat every potential customer as an individual human (behind every B is a C), with a problem to solve and the responsibility of using someone else’s money to buy the solution.

Even if your products are out-of-the-box, stand-alone and identical, your customers’ issues never are.

“We can solve your problems!” Bad.

“How can we help to solve your problems?” Good.

A question mark is stronger than an exclamation mark. We don’t want to be told, we want to be asked.

Every aspect of your sales and marketing has to be a consultation to discover how you can help them in their own unique way. So no matter if you are selling enterprise software or cleaning products, you have to approach customers with a service, not a product. You have to show that you have the intelligence to ask the right questions and to understand how you can best serve them — not sell to them.

PS: Solutions.

‘Solutions’ is the most horrible cliche in business, and you should avoid the word at all costs, but it’s become an horrifically over-used cliche because…. it’s what we all do… Time to dig out the Thesaurus.

How can I help your sales and marketing teams?