February 3, 2023

Sales and Marketing Advice

My customer's customer

Ron Stein | 10/25/2019

Recently I was asked to speak to a gathering of emerging tech CEOs. A key point in my talk, “How to Grow Your Sales by Creating A Path from Features to Value”, is about getting to the ‘why’ of your audience – what problem are they really trying to solve and why. It’s not always obvious. 

Yet, before I even stepped into the room there was an issue. 

A simple request was made by me (several actually) to get background information on each company in the audience ahead of my talk. Nada. Was I asking for too much?

Maybe you’re thinking, this isn’t a big deal. But it is. Knowing my audience’s customers helps me to make sure that the takeaways are relevant and actionable. 

Sometimes selling and marketing can seem a little complicated. Particularly when selling directly to another business. No matter the size of the enterprise or type of industry, business-to-business sales can feel like a high-wire act, tip-toeing very gingerly and juggling three bowling pins at the same time. 

The source of the demand for a company’s solution isn’t always clear. In a complex sale you must navigate the “team” of decision makers and their recommenders. Then there is the challenge of understanding the value chain of who drives the demand and why. Initially as well as ultimately. 

For example, let’s say you sell wireless semiconductor chips to manufacturers. Seems straightforward enough. The decision to buy is based on the chip meeting the technical specifications, pricing, and your company’s ability to deliver the needed quantity when the customer needs them. Of course, building relationships with the decision makers and their recommenders is critical too. 

Yet. This isn’t enough to win against a smart competitor. 

The customers here are more than the buying agent, test engineer, and manufacturing engineer. The chip is like the raw material at the beginning of the value chain. It travels down a manufacturing line, onto a printed circuit board, set into an almost finished device, programmed and possibly customized for a particular use or customer’s order, tested, placed into a shipping box, stacked into a pallet in a hot warehouse, loaded onto a truck for a long bumpy journey to a distributor, shipped again to the buyer (reseller or retailer), and finally sold one more time to the end user customer and installed. 

Whew, it’s complex! 

The questions for you are how deep do we go to identify and appreciate the drivers – and how important are they to your sale?

In a sense, there are multiple “customers” in this particular value chain. As part of the selling process it’s important for you to know which people or function influence the sale the most – and why. 

Go beyond business-to-business and business-to-consumer thinking. Shift your marketing and selling focus to the hidden chain of people who may impact the buying process, directly or indirectly. Find the “X” factor in business-to-business-to-X (B2B2X) and business-to-consumer-to-X (B2C2X). These influencers, purchasers, and implementers have needs that more than likely vary significantly, and the person that has the authority to buy your offering knows this. If they don’t, help show them the light. 

Help your customer bring more value to their customer. Work with your buyer to refocus the selling process on their internal and end user customers. Zero in on the issues that matter to each and which influences the sales the most. For example, to a software as a service (SaaS) provider the buying experience is critical, yet most decision-makers delegate the process to others, sometimes involving their customers — everyone needs to be engaged, educated, and sold from scratch. For the semiconductor chip vendor, it revolves around the kind of behind-the-scenes logistical details that appeal to manufacturers and their customers. Who are all these people? Show your buyer how your company understands their unique value chain. But mere word and platitudes won’t cut it. Identify and engage. Support the underlying needs and aspirations of the key players in the chain with a package of initiatives that are included during and after the purchase process. This can be marketing, selling, or technical tools and can include resources and services such as on-boarding support. 

When mapping out the value chain of your customer, pinpoint appropriate needs of each internal and external customer.  Determine why that’s important. Then locate one or more new added “values” you can help your customer bring to the table. 

Focusing on the needs of your customer’s customers brings enormous benefits to your buyer as well as your business. 

Ron is the founder of FastPath Marketing and More Customers Academy. He works with tech-enabled companies, helping them find the fastest path to revenue with executive advising, business development coaching and consulting, as well as marketing and selling training. As an accomplished tech industry business leader and entrepreneur, Ron has served in top-level sales, marketing and business development roles ranging from emerging companies to global tech giants, including as the CEO of a venture-backed wireless startup. Ron is on the advisory board of the University of Florida’s two internationally recognized tech business incubators and writes a popular column on how to grow revenue in the award-winning Florida Trend business magazine. Learn more at www.FastPathMarketing.com. Ron can be reached at 727-642-4246 or by email.

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