The B2B Sales Pitch: It’s all about 3 questions


I am startled by how many B2B sales emails/calls/meetings follow the same pattern: 1 minute introductions, followed by “Let me show you my product/service and why it’s great…” This approach works great for low-ticket items where the worst is that I spent $20 on something I don’t really need.

An excellent sales person will focus 60-70% of his time with the client asking questions. B2B products/services and especially high-ticket items / high-impact decisions cannot be sold by pushing information to the client. It requires to dig deep, then deeper, and even deeper to understand the true problem of the client and then see how your solution could help solve this problem.

IMHO, the three most important questions asked are:
1. What’s the client’s problem?
2. What’s the total value at stake this problem causes?
3. How can my solution help solve this problem?

Let me clarify: 

1: What’s the client’s problem?

If you ask your client “What’s your problem?” you are not doing it right. You need to ask Why? Why? Why? until you dig down to the explicit need of the client. Let me give you an example from my current business:

You: What’s your problem?
Client: We’d like to better understand TV advertising and you offer TV Analytics, right?
[Old you: Yes, that’s right. Let me show you…]
You: Why?
Client: We have a TV campaign starting next month and wanted to test multiple TV creatives.
You: Why?
The creatives have different messages and we want to understand which message resonates best.
You: Why?
Client: We have seen in digital that the message can have 2-3x lift in terms of conversions. We want to test the same for TV.

You have nailed down the explicit need. The client wants to test different TV creatives as he expects to get a large lift in conversions by optimizing the TV campaign.

2: What’s the total value at stake this problem causes?

Once you understand the problem, do not – I repeat DO NOT – start selling your solution to the problem. Whenever the client makes a final decision, he will weigh the pros and cons of using your solution. Think of it being a tipping scale – right now there is absolutely nothing stacked on the con side. You need to make the client understand how much this problem costs him. This is your 800 pound gorilla on the con side.
And: You need to make the client deduct the total value at stake by himself. Why? If the client deduces the numbers himself, he is more likely to believe them and you don’t have to make any assumptions which are probably way off anyway. Here’s the example:

[Old you: So you want to see how you can compare TV creatives to get a 2-3x lift in conversions similar to digital. Let me show you …]
You: What kind of lift would you expect to see in TV?
Client: Well, it’s hard to say. Gut feeling, although I would like it to be 2-3x, I’d say maybe a 30-50% lift?
You: So about 40% on average? That sounds realistic, we have seen this with other clients. And what’s your total TV budget?
Client: It’s about $200.000 for this campaign.
You: OK, so what would you expect to save in terms of optimizing?
Client: Well, we probably have to spend $50.000 before we can switch TV creatives. That means about $150.000 where we could get 40% more out of the given budget. That’s about $60.000.

You have nailed down the total value at stake. Before, this value was hypothetical, now suddenly $60.000 are on the line (your 800 pound gorilla on the con side of the tipping scale). And it’s not you who told the client but the client realizing this all by himself.

3. How can my solution help solve this problem?

Once you understand the value at stake, do not – I repeat DO NOT – start selling your solution to the problem. Let the client state the benefit in his own words. Why? Because 90% of your sale will happen outside of your call/meeting during internal discussions with his boss & colleagues. You are prepping the client with his internal arguments in his own words. Here’s the example:
[Old you: So you could get $60.000 more out of your budget. Let me show you how …]
You: If there was a way of comparing TV creative engagement rates, how would this help you?
Client: Well, it’s obvious. We would act just like in digital. Start with a couple of different ones, analyze the engagement rates and then pull the ones that underperform. And the faster we could do this, we could probably save more than $60.000.
You: Yes, it’s all about being able to compare TV creative engagement rates, ideally in real-time. Let me show you how our solution does this for you.

Now your entire presentation is focused around solving the client’s problem. It’s not about having the most features, it’s not about having the cheapest price (as long as your solution does not cost more than $60.000). And you have helped the client to develop his arguments for internal selling which you can summarize in the client’s own words in your follow-up email.

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