Beyond the Pitch

5 Reasons NOT to Base Your Business Plan on a B2B Product that Sells Itself

Even though we’ve learned to never say “never” when it comes to entrepreneurship, we have never yet seen a sustainable business plan that was based on a product or service that “sold itself.”

This isn’t to deny that somewhere, in some corner of the Internet, such a product might exist. But even if it does and we had exclusive rights to the IP, we would “never” choose to give up the opportunity of selling to the customer.

Here are 5 reasons why.

1. During the sales process you earn the customer’s attention. Sales calls open the door so you can prove that your company can solve business problems for your B2B customer better than anyone else. This is a critical milestone for any startup.

Every B2B problem boils down to a challenge of increasing revenue or reducing cost. Whether it’s during a one-on-one sales call, a demonstration at a trade show, or a YouTube video, clearly showing how your solution can help customers improve the bottom line is what earns you a second appointment and eventually an ongoing business relationship.

2. Framing the features of your solution in the context of your customers’ problems helps an entrepreneur develop a credible B2B value proposition that you can use with other customers. Great products and services offer multiple features that are useful to the markets you intend to serve. But not all of them are features that every customer will be willing to pay money for.

The challenge for an early stage business is to determine which features are the heavy hitters and which are the nice-to-haves. During the sales process, listening to your customers will help you figure this out.

One of our clients helps universities and healthcare systems reduce inbound shipping costs by as much as 30 percent. Our client also has the capability to allocate shipping costs to the appropriate grant, department, or general ledger-a capability that helps hospitals or universities with their accounting.

Both features also save time, but as you might expect, it’s the possibility of reducing hard dollar shipping costs by 30 percent that really attracts new business.

3.  The sales process builds relationships.  Customers like, trust, and continue to do business with companies, brands, and individuals that they believe will solve their problems—especially when you and they tackle challenges shoulder-to-shoulder as a team. 

Teamwork causes customers to view you and your company more as a partner, less as a vendor.

And there’s a bonus. The easiest customers to sell to are the satisfied customers who have done business with you before.

4.  The experience of selling to one customer, or five, ten, or fifty, makes it easier to sell effectively to the next. Selling to customers teaches you first-hand what works and what doesn’t work. It’s true that every customer is unique—but not in every way.

At some point, you will hear the same thing from two entirely different customers. Pay attention when you do. And if you hear the same thing from three customers—whether it’s favorable or unfavorable—you’d do well to accept it as true. If it’s unfavorable, fix it. If it’s favorable, emphasize it.

5.  Selling to customers is fun. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a potential customer’s eyes light up when you present solutions to their problems that they believe might actually work. It’s great to collaborate on how you can help her grow her business, while you are growing yours.

So if you are one of those entrepreneurs who thinks that sales isn’t really your thing…think again. Actively engaging in sales is the best way to learn what customers really want, need, and will pay for.

That’s the way your business will grow.

Take this sales readiness quiz to see if you’re prepared to start selling.

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