GUEST: Jeff Koser, CEO of Selling to Zebras
When you look at your best prospects and customers, they should be just as distinctive as zebras.
That was the idea behind Jeff Koser’s book Selling to Zebras. Jeff noticed that the companies he was working with had the same problem, even though they thought they were unique. So he just wrote a story.
It’s gone on to be wildly successful, and Jeff has now written another book called Voice of the Customer for his company, also called Selling to Zebras. On the latest episode of The B2B Revenue Executive Experience, we interviewed Jeff about why you shouldn’t sell without the secrets in that book.
The Voice of the Customer
Jeff’s book is in ebook format and is free on Selling to Zebras’ website. They offered it for free because the whole core of what they teach is related to the messaging from the customer. The voice of the customer is not easy to figure out, so they wanted to put the secrets out there in detail.
As Selling to Zebras talked to potential investors, the latter said, “We don’t know if this voice of the customer thing is scalable.” Even executives who had become customers wondered the same thing. So Jeff and his team wanted to teach people how to do that, and that’s what they’ve done.
They put the secret sauce in a book. It’s still not easy, but the answer is at least out there.
What Business Problem Do You Solve?
One of the things the book focuses on is getting access to power, as well as understanding the business problem that you actually solve. We asked Jeff: Why do most companies and sales reps struggle with this?
“Common sense isn’t very common,” he said.
Jeff does presentations to rooms full of CEOs. First, he brings his zebra pad and gives every one of them a 3 by 3 inch piece of paper, asking them to write down the business problem they solve.
Invariably, they tell him what their company or product does but not the problem they solve for power. They don’t frame it for the person that would purchase their solution. You would think this wouldn’t be so hard to figure out, but often it is.
You’ve got to understand not just what your solution does, but what that means for your customers.
The Most Important Thing You Will Learn From Reading the Ebook Is...
...Getting to power is what’s key, and you have to earn the right to get to power.
Power is the person that can buy, even without a budget. Even if you’ve had a customer for years, there’s somebody in that chain of command that signed off on it.
When Jeff asks his customers who the power is within their customers, many times they don’t even know. Either they never met them or they met them when they first started the business relationship and never since. The only way you can get back to that person is to earn the right.
The ebook tells you how to do that. You have to
- Study their website
- Study their industry
- Study their competitors
- Frame the business problem you think you solve for them (so you can verify it or get clarity)
You have to do your homework and come up with a solid business message to earn the right to 30-45 minutes of their time.
What is most effective when someone is trying to sell to you?
We like to ask all of our podcast guests this question. Here’s how Jeff responded:
“You have to learn how to create a buying experience for your prospect. When somebody says the word salesperson, the image that’s always conjured up isn’t positive—even for those of us in this profession. Nobody wants to be sold to. It feels good to go through a buying experience, but it’s not easy. You have to pivot until you get it right.
“The second thing is, come with a knowledge of my business. If you’re going to call on me, make sure you understand what it is we do and can communicate the problem you think you solve for me and why you think I have that problem. If you helped me, tell me what value would be created. I may know intuitively, but I don’t want to have to do your work for you. When sellers do that with me, I’ll talk with them, because I’m impressed. Sellers like to talk to people who get it.”
In each episode of the B2B Revenue Executive Experience, we ask our guests for one nugget of wisdom they would impart to a sales professional. Here’s this one:
“It’s practicing that buying experience. It really does go back to that. I think it’s IDC that says that 50% of the sale is done today before they ever call you. I don’t know if I agree with that, but what I’d say is you still have to take over the buying experience and turn it into something that you guide them through that allows them to opt out.
“You demonstrate why they’re your ‘zebra.’ Let them come to the realization that they’re a good fit. You’re creating a journey that they’re directing, but because you’re in the right place and did it with respect, it feels good to them. And if you can’t build a business case around the solution, you’ll exit, and that’s part of your message. You’re not just trying to sell them something: you’re working to create a buying experience to make sure that you, as well and they, are in the right place.”
If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.