Ever Had a B2B Sales Prospect Answer 'I smoked too much dope'?

Ed Marsh | Aug 19, 2014

You don't know "why"

Take a couple minutes, watch this, chuckle...and then let's talk.



Known & unknown unknowns

I'm always a bit disconcerted when I sit down to chat with a successful business owner, CEO or president and discover that most of their knowledge of their target buyers and buying motivations is essentially parroting back their company's marketing material.

Now certainly in many midsize companies those aren't the folks on the front sales lines.  And just as the VP of Sales probably doesn't understand the intricacies of the commercial lending facility which provides the company's working capital, it's understandable that the CEO might not understand every product application in depth.

But on the other hand this is a person who is making value based decisions around return on capital and long-term strategy - and it's alarming when they're comfortable with a sophomoric sales justification.

5 or more layers deep - and 3 layers deeper than they've looked themselves

Why do companies buy?  Why do individuals buy?  Each is a complicated organism with many competing objectives - but NOBODY buys because of how many HP or kbytes or FPM some product has.  Period.

Buying is predicated on the value to be realized.  And while some companies with very sophisticated lean processes may understand the consequential implications of a change, or an investment, many others take a rather more simplistic view.  (e.g. we're going to cut two workers from the process at a loaded average of $38/hour.)

So becoming a trusted advisor, or a thought leader on how your products drive value for your customers requires that you bring a broad perspective of experience across many projects (always observing formal and assumed confidentiality.)

Your sales process, most of which will occur virtually through your digital content (after all we know that B2B buyers are typically unwilling to speak to a direct sales rep until they are more than 2/3 of the way through their buying process) will need to progressively introduce nuanced business topics in digestible chunks.  After all, very few corporate buying decisions are made by a single person anymore - different people with different job requirements and different personal perspectives will consider different implications in their own light.  And buying is a journey of progressive research and learning - and the real "ah ha" moments are when you secure your position of credibility, critical to later securing the order.

Take that example, above, of some solution which will reduce the manual component of manufacturing by 2 workers.  Here are a variety of not uncommon related business considerations that would potentially, substantially alter the importance of that change.

From the perspective of HR:

  • How high is turnover (is it hard to keep bodies on the floor)
  • What's the skill level of those positions (is it hard to find qualified folks)
  • What other costs are related to turnover (employee referral bonuses, cost of training someone, frequency of unemployment claims from those who cycle out, recruiting & hiring burden in direct and indirect costs for fees and staffing, perception on forums & message boards, etc.)
  • How much time is wasted on scheduling high volatility jobs, and what dissatisfaction does that create among others who are asked to work when they weren't scheduled?

From the perspective of operations:

  • What's the shift differential (output delta between 1st, 2nd & 3rd - maybe the net result across three shifts is dramatically higher than a single shift)
  • Is the facility considering expansion?  Do they rent outside space?  Taking two bodies off the floor doesn't fix that, but approaching staffing from an angle other than hourly cost creates interesting discussions.  After all if improving productivity eases the requirement for space for production, it similarly reduces parking, cafeteria and locker room space requirements - and then the custodial and maintenance burden for those spaces.
  • What overtime costs are incurred in plugging those gaps for sick & personal days and vacations?
  • When others are rotated in to plug the gaps what are the quality and throughput implications?
  • How often does a shift supervisor end up stepping in to plug holes due to turnover or last minute absence, and what implications does that have to efficiency across the operation?

These are typical, but hypothetical examples which may not apply to your specific situation.  But the fact that you haven't asked, doesn't mean they don't apply.  Perhaps you'd be surprised at the variety of responses you'd get - particularly valuable are the "Well that's not applicable to us, but...now that you mention it we do have XXXX challenge."

Creating probing content for various personas and various stages in their buying journey

If you fire all these questions at someone during a first meeting, or if you thrust all this information at someone during their first visit to your website, you'll fail.  And the information which is important to operations is different than that which is important to HR.

Therefore not only must your B2B marketing content help to guide your prospects through a virtual process of business improvement and self-discovery, but it must be tailored to their perspective; it must be in various formats including video, images, short articles, whitepapers, online ROI calculators, presentations, etc.; and it must be mapped to the phases in their research and evaluation.

In other words, your thought leadership content will position you as an advisor to their business - and simultaneously distinguish you from the myriad of peddlers simply yammering on about their features and benefits.  You'll have a director's panoramic perspective with focused x-ray vision.  You'll understand some elements of your prospects' businesses better than they do in many cases.

You'll harvest answers that surprise you for sure....although perhaps never "because I smoked too much dope"!