In the new world of B2B selling, sales people need to bring insights to their customers. Sales people need to help customers identify new opportunities, ways to improve their business, ideas to grow. A large element of the value we create derive from the insights we bring to our customers. We transform from being a vendor to a trusted adviser.
Recently, a reader posed the question, “What happens if the customer starts sharing these insights with your competitors, seeking the best price?” It’s a great question–unfortunately it happens. I thought I might share a few ideas about dealing with these situations.
1. Are you bringing real insights to the customer, or engaging in an advanced form of advertising?
I’ll write much more about this in an upcoming post, but sometimes we really aren’t providing insight. Insight is not “mass marketable.” Insight is not something you shop from customer to customer, taking a standard presentation to anyone and any company that is willing to listen. Generally, insight is unique to a specific situation your customer faces at a point in time. It comes from deep understanding of your customer and what they are trying to achieve, not a generic, dear occupant marketing program.
If you are packaging generic programs as insight, first your competition will see it and be able to launch strategies to counter your programs. So you shouldn’t be surprised. Second, the customer owes it to themselves to look for real insight, so it’s fair for them to share this “public” information with others, asking for their views.
2. Are your insights with the right people in the organization?
If you are providing real insights, ideas unique to the customer and the challenges they face, you have to be providing these insights to the right people in the organization. These are the problem owners, the people in the organization for who the insight brings great value. In my experience, those people are so interested in what you have to provide, they won’t shop it, but get involved in understanding what it means and what they should be doing. Sharing insights with the wrong people in the organization is meaningless, potentially confusing. They don’t know what to do with it, it may have no value, it does little to help them with what they are trying to achieve.
3. Insights and solutions go hand in hand, helping the customer achieve what you suggest in the insight requires unique capability.
We don’t or shouldn’t be providing insight without providing a road map about how we can help the customer achieve what we are suggesting. Insight and a solution go hand in hand. By itself, insight is just frustrating to the customer–it gives them ideas but no path to solution. For the sales person, it’s a waste of time, your insight for the customer need be tied to how you can help them achieve it.
The close tie between the insight and the solution requires unique capability. It is not easily copyable. If the customer, for whatever reasons, provides the idea to a competitor, it doesn’t mean the competitor can solve the problem. They may try to copy or emulate what you are trying to do, but they are likely not to be able to deliver the real value or results you can provide. They may try to copy, but they may not have the experience to really solve the problem or address the opportunity, the risk the customer faces is significantly higher.
It’s important the customer understands this. There is a difference between providing insight with solutions and copying someone else’s ideas. The original always creates greater value than the imitator.
4. Then there are those who don’t value insight.
There are some customers who simply don’t value their suppliers. They don’t look for suppliers to help solve their problems, to given them ideas, to work with them in improving their businesses. To these, price is all important. As sellers, we have a choice. Are these customers we want to work with? Are these customers who we can create value for? Are these customers that can be profitable? If customers don’t value ideas and insight. If customers don’t value what you can do to help them with their business, then your only alternative is to provide the lowest cost of transaction possible. If it’s good business for you, then you are aligned with the customer. If the customer doesn’t value the insight you provide, then find a customer who does, don’t waste your time on those who don’t–let them be the competition’s nightmare.
Insight, ideas, solutions are critical to our customers. But we have to be creating real value to customers who value it. Without these, it’s merely a transaction.