unboxed marketing

group therapy for marketers and business owners

peeling the onion

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 12, 2009

When a salesman calls me, I ask a few questions and do a bit of research onion3before agreeing to meet to hear the pitch. If the answers and research don’t make me want to look further, I politely decline the opportunity to hear more.

I had declined an invitation from my boss after reading about a company called Hanover Research Council that wanted to meet. The company’s website is filled with jargon and what the Cluetrain Manifesto would call techno-Latin, words that make you sound smart but mean little to the reader. The website even uses the word “verticals” as a noun. Lord, help me.

My decision to decline the invitation was rejected, so I sat politely as the conference call began. It started as a suspected. The salesguy talked about how great his company was, but took forever to start talking about what his company could do for us.

Once he did–about 30 seconds before I was going to feign illness so I could leave the room–the salesguy did what the website and his emails had failed to do–show how his product would help us meet our goals. 

The company’s product is great. Organizations–mostly educational institutions–buy annual memberships and receive two things:

  1. An unlimited number of custom research projects completed by Hanover’s staff of 60+ professional researchers.
  2. Access to all the research projects the company has completed in the past.   

For a small college like ours that is trying to make strategic decisions, this product is huge. We want to make data-driven decisions, but often can’t because we don’t have the ponies to collect and analyze data. Hanover could do that work for us. It’s difficult to overestimate the impact that can have on small colleges like ours.

The lesson here is simple. You can have the greatest product in the world, but you won’t sell it unless you get a foot in the door. We can do that by speaking and writing in plain language that immediately shows how our products can help someone solve a problem.

Don’t make potential customers peel your onion.


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