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How Do You Make Money?

by David Brock on June 5th, 2013

How Do You Make Money?  This question, and it’s variants, is probably the single most important question for us to understand.  Being able to answer this question and it’s variants is critical to our success as sales professionals.

 It’s not a simple or a trivial question.

The unprepared would give simple and trivial answers, “we sell stuff.”

But the question is actually profound and your ability to answer it is critical to success.  Let’s look at it, but with some twists.

Variant 1, How do our customers make money?  To answer this properly, we have to understand their markets, competitors, business strategies, and priorities.  We have to understand how they position themselves, the value they create, and their differentiation to their customers.  We have to understand the issues critical to their success–what stands in their way, what opportunities are they missing, how could they do better?

As sales people, until we can answer this question, we are not prepared to walk in their door.  We are not prepared to engage them in a conversation relevant to them.  We are totally incapable of providing insights that are helpful to them and will be wasting their time.

Corollary 1, How does your customer’s function/job contribute to the way their company makes money?  Our customers, the people, not the enterprises sit somewhere in the organization.  They have jobs, they sit in a certain function.  They may actually not know the answer to this question.  But without the ability to answer this question, as much a we want to sell, they aren’t in a position to buy.

Everyone in the organization contributes in some way to how the organization makes money.  They may design products, they may make them, they may service customers, they may buy stuff and manage suppliers, they may issue invoices or pay bills, they may sell.  All of these are critical to how an organization makes money.

Knowing what they are expected to contribute toward this goal and how we can help them better achieve those goals, contributing to how their companies make money is critical to our success as sales people.  It’s our job to help them understand  this.  It’s our job to show them how they can help their companies make more money (top and/or bottom line).

Variant 2, How does our company make money?  This would seem obvious, but it may not be.  See we really need to know who our customer is—that is our sweet spot.  We have to know what problems they have that we are the best at solving.  We have to know our companies strategies, priorities and growth plan.  We build and execute our sales strategies based on a deep understanding of these.  We know not to waste our time or the company resources chasing the wrong customers.  We know not to waste time on opportunities that don’t fit our company’s strategies and priorities—because they drive cost instead of making money.

Corollary 2, this is actually the same as Corollary 1–but from the point of view of our own company.  Everyone contributes to helping the company make money.  This is important to sales.  This means the entire company needs to have your back.  If they don’t, you can’t help the company make money.

Variant 3, How do we align our customer’s strategies for making money with our company’s strategies for making money?  This is critical, without aligning these we piss customers off—pushing stuff they don’t need on them.  Or we book bad business for our company–ultimately causing our company to go out of business.  If our customers don’t make money and our company’s aren’t making money, then we are wasting time doing the wrong thing.

Variant 4, How do we as individual sales people make money?  The answer to this is simple.  Know the answers to Variant’s 1 and 2, Corollaries 1 and 2.  Know how to help your customers make money by doing the things that make your company money.  Know how to show your customers you are the best at helping them do that.  Do these, and you will make money.

My friends Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson, authors of The Challenger Sale, say Challengers are comfortable talking about money.

Are you comfortable talking about, “How do you make money?”

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

IBM

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