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Stop selling products.

The concept is hardly new but it’s nonetheless more pertinent than ever. And regardless of how many times resource or solution selling is taught, re-taught, discussed and presented…the first words out of our sales people’s mouths is still inevitably about products.

We spoke last month to 5 engineering and purchasing VPs about the changing roles of their vendors in the context of maturing technologies and a highly stressed global economy. The conversations repeatedly returned to similar pleas: “Be someone that I can call on as a resource. Understand my business and my customers.” Too many sales people still called or visited with only the most superficial knowledge of their prospect’s company. Or with out of date information.

It became clear in these conversations that in spite of the increased difficulty that the economic cycle has arguably brought to the task of developing customer-vendor relationships, solid pre-sale relations are nonetheless significant to their purchasing decisions. One suggested that to him, “It’s a leading indicator of what a vendor’s post sale value will be to me.”

Box-to-box selling virtually always accelerates the downward spiral of prices. That’s a reality in most every situation but increasingly the case in maturing technology markets. And today’s technology buyers know there are multiple sources for most products and how and where to find them. Long selling cycles and multiple contact points complicate B2B marketing. Marketing is not a department, it is integral to the sales process. Your business needs its message to be available at the correct time and in the correct format. If you’re like the average company too often that’s not the case. But most of all, the message and those materials need to be relevant. Relevant to them…not to us.