A Minute on Marketing: Don’t sell the product, sell the profit

Successful B2B Marketers turn their products into profit for their customers

We’re all quite familiar with selling the benefits of a product rather than the features, and even turning this is to a customer value proposition, but having a profit discussion is even more powerful. Your customer’s profit that is.

How can you improve your customer’s profit? Simply, by increasing their revenue, reducing their cost or reducing risk. If you can show how your product, service or solution does this, your selling will be easier and faster.

In a previous role, we used a technique called ‘Profit Improvement Proposals’ or PIPs, which were delivered by the salesperson to the customer. Surprisingly simple, yet surprisingly effective. It was a document, just one or two pages, that showed a customer process, or challenge and how our offering improved a process (saving cost), generated additional revenue or reduced risk. Then there was a simple quantification of the impact. So we were no longer ‘selling a cost’, we were ‘selling a profit’. It was very difficult for customers to say no.

The technique is helpful because it forces you to understand your customer’s value chain and where the blockages, points of leverage and opportunities lie. Simply, it forces you to focus on the things that are important to your customers. Their key business drivers. This will vary by industry of course.

In more complex B2B selling, there will be a number of influencers and decision makers, but almost inevitably, approval ends up with a ‘money person’, so providing a PIP puts you on the front foot and supports the internal selling of your [customer] champion who may have a non-financial agenda or KPI’s.

While the technique seems simplistic and the quantification of profit is only an estimate, even if you invested significant time making the numbers more accurate, the customer would be unlikely to believe them on face value. But what the technique does, is frame the conversation around profit, and the impact on the customer’s business rather than the cost of your product. If you are starting to debate with your customer the amount of profit you can generate, you’re in a good place. You are on your way to closing the deal.

A corollary of this is that if you can’t demonstrate that you can improve the profit of your customer, you are likely talking to the wrong organisation.

So if you are selling to businesses, my recommendation is to create a Profit Improvement Proposal for your product, service or solution. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it will instantly re-frame the customer conversation and help you sell more effectively.