It can be argued that every B2B business should be concerned about maintaining a long term business relationship with their customers.  Most business executives would flat out state that it is essential to their success.  When you look at the current companies in Silicon Valley that sell SaaS (Something as a Service) there is no question that customer churn is the death knell for this business model.

However, when you consider the actions of B2B companies and how they deal with customers throughout the lifecycle, they are often in direct conflict with the concept of an ongoing business relationship.  In this blog, I want to explore three critical promises that B2B companies must keep if they are to land and keep profitable customers.

Promise #1: Don’t Waste My Time When Selling to Me!

Customers do not want to be “sold to” despite all of the sales training that goes into teaching sales reps how to position, explain and glorify the company’s products and services.  The result is too many sales reps are being turned into a “two-legged marketing brochure” precisely at a time when virtually all of the information they impart is available on the internet for anyone who cares to look.

Customers do not particularly value a sales rep because of what he or she knows about their company’s products and services.  That is pretty much table stakes in the game of sales.  What customers want most, and can’t find on the internet, is someone that truly understands them, the problems they are trying to solve or opportunities they want to pursue, and the outcomes they want to produce – and then can connect the dots to how the selling organization can help them.

The first promise a company must keep with its customers when selling is to not waste their time with another PowerPoint presentation.  Rather the salesforce must promise to quickly understand what the customer wants to accomplish and then just as quickly make an assessment as to whether they can actually help.  If it is not a good fit, the promise is to explain to the customer why (and maybe even offer up other alternatives) and not waste their time.  If there appears to be a good fit, then the promise is to quickly provide a compelling value proposition that the customer understands and on which they want to take action.

Promise #2:  Negotiate the Right Deal

Much has been written on the topic of B2B negotiations and the desire to reach a “win-win” in the business deal.  But is this really the right outcome?  Since neither party to a negotiation knowingly accepts a deal that is worse than their next best alternative, I would argue that every B2B business deal ever signed was a win-win.  And yet how many are truly successful and deliver the outcomes each side was expecting?

The “right deal” is fair to, and as much as possible, meets the needs of both parties.  However, the third and most often missing attribute is that it contains all of the right products and services in the proper amounts that will enable the selling organization to actually deliver the value that was promised during the sale.

Therefore, the second promise of the selling organization is to both educate the buyer on what a great deal should look like to him/her in order to achieve the outcomes they desire, and then to negotiate a deal that is both equitable to each party and contains the proper mix of products and services to deliver that outcome in the desired timeline.  This also means the sales rep must understand the capabilities and capacity of their organization to meet the needs of the customer. In effect, the seller is promising not to stuff the deal with unwanted or excess products and services in order to increase the deal size (and thus their commission check).

Promise #3:  Deliver or Over-Deliver the Promised Value

As trite as it sounds, this is actually what the customer wants.  The above two promises are simply the prelude and necessary precursors to success.  The customer wants you to deliver the outcome(s) in the desired quantities at or before when they are expecting them.  However, it is not enough to simply believe you have delivered on the outcomes.  The selling organization must also get credit for delivering that value.

To truly execute on the delivery of value, the selling organization must commit to self-reporting to the customer early in the sales cycle.  How different would that make the sales rep look during the sale?  The third promise is that the selling company will meet with the customer and self-report on the actual value delivered after implementation.  And if something goes wrong during implementation the selling organization will make it right.  After all, if this were your money you would expect nothing less?

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This is a tough and sometimes unwelcome question often fraught with emotion – especially for the sales team pursuing the opportunity. However, it is imperative they know a B2B opportunity is qualified and therefore worth committing precious hours and limited corporate resources in pursuing.

“It’s an approved project with budget. We’ve met with all of the key buying influencers – and they really like what we have to say!” I am willing to bet this opportunity would easily clear the “qualified” hurdle and would probably show as “upside” or perhaps even “commit” in many a sales pipeline. But is it really qualified?

Meet Steve Thompson

Steve is president and founder of Value Lifecycle TM, a strategy execution consulting practice that helps both selling and buying organizations position, negotiate, and close “must-win” deals. Steve works closely with clients to help them advance their corporate strategy, strengthen relationships with their customers and suppliers, and achieve sustainable business outcomes.

True Compass

Is this opportunity qualified? Do I have a compelling value proposition that will increase my odds of winning?

Does my proposal setup the right negotiation? What is the “right deal” for this opportunity?

Is this customer likely to renew? What is changing with the customer’s business that presents new opportunities for me?

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