Do you solve your customer’s problems or sell your products?

What kind of a sales team do you have? Do you have problem solvers or sellers? I’d be interested to find out and help you build a strong, successful sales and marketing team that offers true customer value.

According to different research sources (a.o. Forrester) almost 60% of buyers prefer to do research online before buying instead of interacting with a sales representative. This because customers feel that sales people will push their sales agenda instead of solving the customer’s problem.

Well, I have experienced this myself so many times. As a strategic marketing and customer analyst I am out there in the market making sure organizations understand their target group, know what makes them tick. For that reason I have been interviewing hundreds of customers in a B2B, technical environment over the years to learn about and understand the customers’ painsand gains. Customers really appreciate the interest of someone truly listening to their story, their needs, and wishes.

Of course there are sales people out there in the market that can do the same. So, you don’t need an interviewer and analyst for that. That might be so, but why is it then that so many customers say they prefer online search over the sales rep in the earlier buying stages?

Who owns the customer in your organization?

In general sales representatives are not so comfortable with anyone else but themselves, talking to their customers. They feel they own the customer and therefore no one else but them are the best people to talk to the customer. Of course, you and I know that this is an old-fashioned thought, and there are many organisations where this is not true anymore. But I dare say that in quite many industrial, B2B companies this is still the case.

Customers nowadays have so many touchpoints with your organization, that you cannot ‘own’ the customer anymore. Different functions in the organization need to collaborate to provide customers a seamless experience and thus make sure you understand what drives them and their business. You can coordinate you activities, own your processes, but not the customer.

Big ears and a small mouth

It did happen several times that, when I was about to interview a  customer to better understand their drivers, a sales representative wanted to come along and thus we went together. In the car on our way over we discussed our game plan. I would be in the lead asking the customer questions and more so, we would let the customer talk about what moved him/her. In that way we would learn the best input for future offering and value propositions.

Unfortunately, these were my worst interviews. Because, as soon as we sat down at the customer’s table, the sales rep took over the conversation and made it a monologue. For example, he (in technical sales I cannot help it, that it almost always is a ‘he’) saw a technical design drawing on the wall of the newest project that the customer was working on. Immediately he saw his chance to talk about that project. This was his next sales opportunity and thus it was justified to change the objective of this conversation and go after this deal. What a shame because the true opportunity here lay in having that open discussion, providing true insights in the deeper needs of his customer.

In the car back to the office, I even got blamed for asking some obvious questions. Questions, like ‘Why is that your biggest challenge in…….?‘. Questions, to which the sales representative said he knew the answers and thus thought it was unnecessary for me to ask.

This hopefully makes you wonder:

Do you really know the answer, or do you think you do?

Do you prefer listening above talking? The big ears and the small mouth.

Do you address the real opportunity, or do you miss out on a much bigger one?

Happy to help you find your answers to these questions in an informal conversation without any obligation. We like to support you, when you are ready to see above and beyond the obvious. We bring insights to you and the team, that improve your lead generation and sales. Contact us at


Posted on 2020 okt 20.