The “Real” Customer in B2B Selling

A truly convoluted piece that might just help your B2B sales career

One of the biggest challenges in B2B sales is to “unset” and then “reset” the mindset of your customer. Unless you do that, they will often push back and resist change. This is because often their minds are already “set” at being close to overwhelmed and adding anything new runs the risk of their dropping something they are already having trouble staying on top of.

This is why understanding where your customer is truly coming from that they are usually consciously unaware of can be helpful in their wanting to hear more from you.

In essence, when you truly get where your customer is coming from and help them there, they are more likely to let you take them where you want them to go.

This is where they are coming from…

You’re in B2B sales and you think you’re talking to your real customer.

You’re not.

You think you you’re speaking to them to solve the problem they’re telling you they have.

You’re not and they’re not.

The real customer you need to convince is not the customer you’re talking to or communicating with.

It’s not even that customer’s boss.

It’s that customer’s boss’ boss.

That’s right. It’s not your customer or his/her boss. It’s their boss’ boss.

Now please accept my apology for what follows.  It will sound convoluted, because it is. However, if you read it a few times, you should get it. In fact, it is one of my least articulate blogs, but it will still be worth your taking the time to understand it.

If you compare it to some arcane, unfathomable academic paper, it might not sound so bad.

Your B2B customer’s boss’ boss is often focused on what results (i.e. what important, critical and urgent problem gets solved) he/she can get within a certain time frame that will get them a big raise or big promotion.  Actually, in these times of high anxiety, their boss’ boss is probably also focused on what lousy results (i.e. problem not solved or made worse) would cost them a raise or a promotion and then doing whatever they can to prevent that.

What’s next for you to consider is what specific results could your customer’s boss get that will:

  1. Greatly increase the likelihood of their immediate boss getting results that were essential in their boss’ boss getting a big raise or promotion?
  2. Cause their boss’s boss to know that your customer’s immediate boss was essential to achieving those results?
  3. Cause their boss’s boss to know that your customer’s immediate boss knows that he/she was the one largely responsible for their boss’ boss getting that raise or promotion?

Did you read the above enough times to understand it?

Great and thank you.

Because the exact same process now applies to your customer. Here we go again.

What specific result could your customer get for his/her immediate boss that will:

  1. Greatly increase the likelihood of their immediate boss getting results that were essential in their immediate boss getting a raise or promotion?
  2. Cause their immediate boss to know that your customer was essential to achieving those results?
  3. Cause their immediate boss to know that your customer knows that he/she was the one largely responsible for their boss getting that raise or promotion?

Phew, are you and I both glad we got through that!

But wait, we’re not finished. What follows is slightly less convoluted, but again, if you read it a few times you’ll get it and will be hopefully worth your effort.

Here is the essential thing that your customer needs to know about his/her immediate boss.

Is that boss a giver, taker or receiver?

Let me clarify:

  1. Giver – If your customer’s immediate boss is a giver, then he/she without asking will naturally give your customer a raise or promotion, if their boss gets one that is largely due to your customer’s results.
  2. Taker – If your customer’s immediate boss is a taker, then he/she will do whatever they can to not give your customer a raise or promotion, because that would increase the cost to the company, which a taker boss is not going to want to do.
  3. Receiver – If your customer’s immediate boss is a receiver, then he/she may not spontaneously pass down a raise or promotion if he/she gets one, but will if your customer asks for it.

And the takeaway from this most exasperating post is hopefully obvious.

The more likely your customer’s boss is a giver when he/she gets a promotion or raise, the more likely your customer will receive one as well.  The more likely your customer’s boss is a receiver or worse a taker, the less likely their boss is to receive a deserved raise or promotion.  But that is your customer’s problem and responsibility to address with their boss.

BTW as a B2B salesperson, you need to apply these criteria also to your boss. Because if you achieve great numbers in your selling, you will also want your boss to be an unselfish giver who shares his/her success with you rather than being a receiver or taker.

One way to deal with this is to proactively address it with your boss by asking them, “What results if I achieved for you would greatly increase the chances of you getting a raise and/or promotion.  And if that were to happen, how would I participate in that result?”

Sound too pushy?

It’s actually a fair question if you ask it with a proper non-pushy, non-entitled tone. The more your boss is a giver the more likely they are to comfortably answer, or even better more likely they are to tell you ahead of time how you’ll benefit without having to ask.

On the other hand, the more defensive they become, the more they are hiding a selfishness that down the road could make for a very frustrating conversation and even cause you to begin thinking of not wanting to work for them

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