Two Things a Salesperson Never Wants to Hear—and How to Respond When You Do


“We see you as a commodity.”

Ouch. Painful words after years of great service. The first time I heard a customer say those words, I was indignant until I realized how they saw me was far more important than how I saw myself.

Take a discerning look at your competitors and yourselves. There’s probably a lot of sameness. Change is a lot easier when your customer sees your product or solution as the same product or solution they can get someplace else. Take a look at your products and solutions through your customer’s eyes. How does your product or solution interact with your customer’s business? What ideas can you bring to improve how your product or solution affects inflection points and latencies within your customer’s business? What if you could improve the order to cash flow for your customers? What if you could reposition your solution to bring value not only to your customer, but your customer’s customer? If your customers believe they can buy your solution and products somewhere else, it’s incumbent on you to sell the value proposition that you bring beyond the product and service.

Here’s another one: “It’s not you, really, it’s me.”

Of course it’s not you. It’s never been you. It’s always been the customer. A mistake that a lot of salespeople make is losing focus on the customer, and particularly, the right customer. It’s very easy to become complacent with your day-to-day, long-term relationships. These relationships are fed by the status quo. These are the people who need your product or service and they give you the next purchase order. You may be surprised to find out you haven’t been having the right conversation with the right person.

Quantifying business value means measuring the impact that your ideas are creating for your customer. You need to have that business conversation with the right person in the organization who understands and appreciates the business value you create. This means more than making sure that your product or service delivers to the specified requirements. This means going beyond to measure business impact created and expanding relationships to make sure that people throughout your customer’s organization know that value has been created and quantified.

After you create great ideas that drive improvements throughout your customer’s organization, and after you quantify those impacts and communicate them to the right people, the process will start all over again. Your customers are far more likely to remember any part of the relationship that did not go well than they are to remember the value you create. Being consistently focused on bringing new ideas, that are all about your customer and their business, and making sure the right executive decision makers hear those ideas, are ways you can do your best to make sure you aren’t on the receiving end of the call that ends the big relationship.

Good luck and good selling.

Tim Riesterer

Tim Riesterer

Chief Strategy Officer

Tim Riesterer has dedicated his career to improving the conversations marketers and salespeople have with prospects and customers. His books, “Customer Message Management”, “Conversations that Win the Complex Sale”, “Three Value Conversations”, and "The Expansion Sale", focus on improving market-ready messages and tools that marketers and salespeople can use to win more deals. As chief strategy and research officer for Corporate Visions, he sets the direction and develops products for this leading marketing and sales messaging, content and training company.

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