Smart sales people know that there is a lot more to selling than just getting a customer to sign a check or issue a PO. In fact, the best sales people realize that selling has very little to do with the “superiority” of their product or service. One of my favorite ad campaigns of all time is from BASF in the late 1990’s: “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better.” I like it so much because I think it is analogous to smart selling: We don’t sell our product/service to get you to use our product/service. We sell our product/service to help you do what you do better.
The best sales people understand that the more they understand how their product or service impacts the customer’s ability to run their business (i.e. sell their product or service, manage costs, etc.), the more effective they will be. But understanding how our product or service impacts their business means we have to understand how their business works. We need to know who they sell to, what their go-to-market strategy is, who they compete against and how they compete against them in their market.
Historically, industry or business segment information available to sales teams has been problematic at best. It is either too much, too little, or not the right information at all. The trick is to teach your sales team the key minimum questions they need to ask themselves and research in order to understand their customer’s business “good enough”. How do you help your sales team members learn new business segments and industries?