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Who are you really selling to?

November 19 2014 2:52 PM

Ok, I admit it. I am well and truly hooked on this year's ‘The Apprentice’. The candidates are over the top, egotistical and clearly hungry for fame. To the point that it’s laughable and very, very entertaining.

Looking past the ‘personalities’, one episode got me thinking. It was an episode where the candidates were tasked with selling clothing to several different retailers. The items were to be gimmicky and had to include something that incorporated modern technology. The ideas were ridiculous as expected. But the pitches to said retailers were even more ridiculous.

What these candidates hadn’t considered was the retailer that they were pitching to. The decision making unit that will either buy or, in these particular cases, not buy.  The unit that will make or break them. Both Team Summit and Tenacity pitched their products as though addressing their target market. They talked to them like they were the end user. Error. They’re not. They’re business buyers. Viewing your products purely from a financial perspective. Yes, they will be buying in order to sell to a specific audience but that doesn’t mean they think like them or want to be spoken to as if they are them.

The teams weren’t prepared with figures, forecasts or budgets. They were more interested in telling the retailer how cool they would look wearing their creations. How much they would stand out in the crowd. The fact is, the retailer knows exactly what it is their customers want. And what it is they’ll buy. What they want to know is what the figures look like, what your business plan is and how you can make them money. 

The same applies to the reseller channel in B2B. They don’t care as much about product quality or support. They care about margin and how easy it is to sell. So if you’re running a campaign with a ‘channel’ element, you need to consider the very different messages to each.

But then there are other middle men to consider. The ‘user-chooser’ only really exists in small companies. In corporate, the buyer is rarely an end user – but is accountable to them (or accountable to others who care about them). And it is not usually just one buyer. It is a chain. Some people refer to it as not B2B, but B2B2B2B2B2C. At the end of the chain, there is a user. However, there is a long line of people in the approval process who fall into the ‘B’ category.

The Apprentice example is an extreme case, I realise that. But my point here is the importance of the ‘middle man’ in the B2B buying process. You’re not selling to the end user. Therefore, the way you pitch your business idea needs to be tailored as such.  Otherwise it’s quite simple. In the words of Alan Sugar, “you’re fired”. 

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March 30 2017 5:23 PM

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