What Species are B2B Clients?

Ask any group of B2B sales reps this question and at first there will be a stunned silence. Repeat the question and there may be one or two adventurous souls who offer a joke as an answer. But typically there’s only that empty void, that silence.

Of course the answer is Homo sapiens. Humans. You. Me. We. All of us.

What’s telling about the lack of answers is that B2B sellers rarely think about the client-buyer as a human. That they’re just like us; biologically and emotionally.

As reps, we pull down our sales goggles and in all good faith, begin crafting complex, intellectual solutions. To sell.

The more savvy reps may spend a moment pencilling a sketch of buyer personalities and putting them into a color coded quadrant. But really, from the RFP point onwards, B2B sellers are pushing through their workflow and calendar.

Clients are Human- Strange but True

Because clients are human, when they become part of an evaluation team for a B2B purchase, they often suffer the following four lacks.

It’s these deficits that sellers can intentionally mitigate and move closer to the win-win that everyone wants.

So, here are the four “lacks” I’m aware of. Any others should be added to this list?

  • Lack of Time
  • Lack of Expertise
  • Lack of Trust in Suppliers
  • Lack of Interest

Lack of Time

Lack of Time

As sellers, we underestimate the time clients have to read sales proposals, consider its practicality, or discuss the merits and flaws of opposing solutions. Often clients are running from one priority to another, flames everywhere. Click To Tweet

How to Help ‘Em Out

Here are a few thoughts for sales teams to help buyers better use their proposal evaluation time, and ultimately make better decisions:

  • Cut out all marketing speak, sales hyperbole, and blatantly self-focused content
  • Write to first reflect clients’ situations, then present your solution – it tells clients your solution is designed for them, and not a cut-and-paste response
  • Write sales proposals more like Hemingway, less like Faulkner
  • Format content for skimming (700 words per min.), not leisurely reading (200-220 words per min.) – use multiple heading levels, bullets, tables, flowcharts – images must contribute to the sales narrative
  • Avoid brand swamping: It occurs when suppliers throw around many brand names, usually for technology – clients can’t/won’t remember all those brands – instead focus on what the technology does for clients – it’s all about the benefits

Lack of Expertise

Lack of Expertise

No aspersions against clients’ intelligence or experience here, but sellers know their solution much better than anyone else (or at least they’re supposed to). Sellers will also know about the nuances and subtleties that often derail complex solutions.

However, sellers sometimes fall into one aspect of the Dunning-Kruger effect where they erroneously believe that what they easily know, clients do too – when in fact clients likely don’t. The balancing act in sales proposals is to boil down complex solutions into compelling narratives

How to Help ‘Em Out

  • Avoid jargon
  • Spell out acronyms
  • Put the solution in a narrative that connects emotionally & intellectually
  • Keep it simple, make it understandable

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

Albert Einstein

Lack of Trust in Suppliers

Lack of Trust in Suppliers

This “lack” can occur from a lifetime of adversarial buyer/seller experiences, or from just one emotionally scarring event that went very, very bad. And some client-buyers may believe hand-to-hand combat against suppliers is what their job demands.

Regardless of how clients arrive there, sellers only have so much time and a limited influence to help clients out of this quagmire.

How to Help ‘Em Out

  • Tactically: Always speak the truth, respect their position/role, admit failure, keep your word & enjoy the process (maybe they’ll even laugh a little)
  • Strategically: Peak their interest in Vested (a collaborative approach to procurement), and over the long term make them a friend

Lack of Interest

Lack of Interest

This is tough for sellers to overcome because it can occur from many overlapping causes, such as when client-buyers are overworked, distracted by personal issues, ready to leave their job/company, etc.

How to Help ‘Em Out

  • Sellers can take the WIFM (What’s in it for me) approach & write/speak entirely to the emotionally-engaging, intellectually-compelling benefits the disinterested client-buyers receive
  • If any of those engaging, compelling benefits catch fire with that client-buyer, sellers will know – because that’s when client-buyers ask about how they can get those benefits, and Voila! Into features/delivery discussion of the sellers’ solution(s)
  • Worst-case: take those engaging, compelling benefits higher up the food chain & repurpose messaging & skinny way down for C-suite’s perspective & shorter-attention span

And lastly, remember that as B2B sales reps:

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”


First published on LinkedIn

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