This post was contributed by Tom English
I’m a firm believer that in order to be truly successful at something you have to be passionate about it. Skills are only developed to their full potential through love, nurture, and commitment. This is especially the case for those of us who work in Sales. I also believe that in order to find meaning and get real fulfillment in selling, you have to serve others, especially those who are supposed to be benefitting the most from what you’re selling. So when Maxwell Bogner, Founder of millennial Sales site helpmeclose.com, recently contacted me on LinkedIn and asked me to write an article about what I am passionate about in B2B Sales, I was more than happy to do so.
During recent years I have been near evangelical about working collaboratively with my customers (primarily Universities) to deliver value to their end-users (primarily students and academic researchers). In many B2B scenarios, meeting the needs of the customer’s customer (end-users) is the only game in town. When I think about my most fulfilling, satisfying work in Sales, as well as my biggest deals, delivering value to end-users (aka implementation) has featured heavily, representing something of a golden thread that runs through all of these things.
Working in collaboration and partnership with customers for the benefit of their end-users is exciting. Better still is when, in my case, this collaboration yields results in the form of highly satisfied students, who are empowered to get the most out of the products and services that we deliver. When running events with universities for the purpose of enabling students to carry out more effective, more efficient research, making discoveries through our platforms that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to, the feedback that I’ve received from students has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Incredible, I didn’t think they’d be doing this for another 10+ years!”
“Amazing! So much time saved!”
“I already love browsing it.”
“Fate brought us here! Thanks so much!”
The most common word that students tend to use when seeing how our research platform and content can specifically benefit them and the quality of their research is “wow”. Wow, indeed. Who doesn’t want to hear feedback like that in the course of doing their job? But it’s simply a natural consequence of being on-hand and involved in giving end-users a great experience.
I’m certainly not the only one who’s evangelising about the importance of companies’ meeting the needs of their customers’ end-users; Bill McDermott, CEO of software giant SAP, said the following at SAP’s Sapphire Conference last year:
“The business to business to customer economy is gone. Everything has to start with that ultimate empathy for that end-user and the experience that they’re getting from your company.”
End-user experience is critical to long-term business success in the twenty-first century. And the key to obtaining the empathy required to deliver that experience lies in gaining a sound understanding of both your customers’ and end-users’ “jobs to be done”. In other words, what jobs are customers hiring your products/services to do? Jobs to be done is a phrase used by Clayton Christensen (referred to in of mine) which refers to what customers ultimately want to achieve through purchasing a product or service. The words of Theodore Levitt sum up the concept nicely:
“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”
Michael Porter put it like this in his business classic Competitive Advantage in relation to the concept of the value chain:
“The links between a firm and its buyer’s value chain that are relevant to buyer value depend on how the firm’s product is actually used by the buyer, not necessarily how it was intended to be used.”
Again, empathy is king. There is no substitute for developing a deep understanding of customers and end-users, how they operate, what they’re looking to achieve and the challenges that they’re looking to overcome (particularly through your product/service). This understanding is of paramount importance to the selling company if it’s going to achieve and maintain success.
In closing, it behooves me to acknowledge that the word Sales has a lot of baggage with it. (I outline why I believe this to be the case in ). I also get the impression that B2B Sales is under threat, or at least under attack, for various reasons. But it doesn’t have to be that way. B2B Sales people can, and should continue to, deliver significant value to the customers and end-users they serve. The question is, as B2B Sales people will we step up to the challenges of the day? Will we raise our game and commit to continuous improvement for the benefit of our customers and end-users? Will we be proactive in adding value to their activities and helping them to achieve their goals and objectives or will we just react to their needs? Each of us is free to choose and our results will depend upon the choices we make.
Now that I’ve spoken about what I’m passionate about in B2B Sales, it’s your turn. What are you passionate about in B2B Sales?