Salesperson #1: “Thank you for the opportunity to quote this heat exchanger for you. Please fill out this long form so we can send it to an engineer to get it quoted."

Salesperson #2: "I have a product in mind that I think will work great for you. Since this is a food grade application, I think we might want to look at double wall construction. Do you have a specific design in mind? We recommend plate-and-frame over brazed plates so the heat exchanger can be opened and inspected to ensure it is getting cleaned. Plate-and-frame models can also be taken apart for repair. Replacement plates and gaskets can be ordered, or performance can be adjusted if your customer finds they need to add or remove plates in the future."

Notice the difference?

These two conversations got me thinking about one of my favorite sales books, The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. (If you haven't read this book yet, please stop right now and go buy a copy. It's sooo good)

In The Challenger Sale, Dixon and Adamson share their research on what qualities or attributes buyers find most impactful to their businesses- and therefore why they buy. 

Based on feedback from 5,000 buyers in the B2B space, the following 7 reasons were the most impactful. 

  1. [Salesperson] offers unique and valuable perspectives on the market. 

  2. [Salesperson] helps me navigate alternatives. 

  3. [Salesperson] provides ongoing advice or consultation.

  4. [Salesperson] helps me avoid potential land mines. 

  5. [Salesperson] educates me on new issues and outcomes. 

  6. [Salesperson] is easy to buy from.  

  7. [Salesperson] has widespread support across my organization

What do you notice about this list? 

The first 5 attributes have nothing to do with features or benefits. They have nothing to do with the product or the company selling the product. The top 5 attributes are all about TEACHING, NOT SELLING!

As noted in the book: "Customers are looking to [salespeople] to help them identify new opportunities to cut costs, increase revenue, penetrate new markets, and mitigate risk in ways they themselves have not yet recognized. Essentially this is the customer—or 5,000 of them at least, all over the world—saying rather emphatically, “Stop wasting my time. Challenge me. Teach me something new.” 

Let’s finish by reviewing the top 5 attributes against salesperson #1 and #2 at the start of this post. 

Salesperson #1 didn’t teach, nor did they help navigate alternatives or help us avoid potential land mines. And to make matters worse, they were hard to do business with (#6 most impactful). 

Salesperson #2 was a teacher. She helped us navigate alternatives (brazed plate vs plate-and-frame) and helped us avoid a potential land mine with a food grade type product. 

Who do you think got the business?

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Brad Telker
Vice President, Applied Systems Group at cfm Distributors, Inc.

Brad joined the cfm team in 2006, and now as the Vice President of the Applied Systems Group, he focuses on business development, as well as helping contractors and engineers find creative and unique solutions to any size HVAC project. When he’s not at work, Brad enjoys reading, running and spending time with his family