“An Educated Consumer is Our Best Customer”: True in Menswear, True in B2B Sales

June 11, 2019

B2B sales

Editor's Note: This post was contributed by Ed Calnan, Founder and President at Seismic.

Growing up on the North Shore of Massachusetts, I bought my first suit at an outpost of the value clothing chain, Syms. More accurately, my dad bought me my first suit there before my first job interview. I know I’m not alone in shopping there for my first suit, as I was reminiscing recently with Gary Reiner, former Chief Information Officer at GE and an investor at General Atlantic. Gary brought the store up when he mentioned that his dad also bought him a suit there before his first job interview.

While Syms is unfortunately no longer in business, Gary and I both clearly remember their slogan: “An Educated Consumer is Our Best Customer.” Syms knew that while not everything in their store would be fancy and top-of-the-line, an educated customer would have the keen eye and knowledge of men’s wear to find the perfect middle ground of value between low pricing and quality clothing. This was the crux of the Syms business model — a partnership between buyer and seller that is mutually beneficial. Buyers who know their needs and opportunities going in will ultimately get more value out of the experience.

Obviously, rifling through a store for high-quality suits at budget pricing requires a very specific understanding of how to find a diamond in the rough relative to bargain blazers. That said, buyers in a B2B organization have an opportunity to serve themselves better and create an extremely beneficial relationship between buyers and sellers by being an educated buyer in their own capacity.

According to CSO Insights, more than half of B2B buyers identify specific solutions before even engaging with a sales representative. The conversation for a seller doesn’t begin with introductions to a product or laying out general ideas about potential business value. Now, buyers can read reviews of vendors on websites like G2Crowd or industry papers from analyst firms like Forrester and Gartner and start to come to their own conclusions before a sales pitch.

This has a lot of positive effects for both sides of the buyer/seller relationship. As a buyer, you can go into a meeting and feel informed enough to understand how a seller and a product can solve your specific pain points and your specific needs. By pressing a seller to communicate more value, speak to specific pain points, and prove why their product specifically is the right solution, you will force a seller to go deep into their product knowledge and be more skillful as well as more honest throughout the sales process. Forcing honesty out of a seller is going to lead to a better conversation.

As a seller, an educated customer prepared with a strong knowledge base in advance means that the conversation is much more likely to be productive. I can speak for my own sales team in saying that conversations with smart buyers who really push our sellers to prove the value of our product are usually the most fruitful and valuable.

And don’t forget — being educated and prepared goes both ways. LinkedIn’s State of Sales report from October says that 77 percent of decision makers won’t engage with salespeople who don’t have insights or knowledge of their business. A prepared buyer needs to be matched with an equally prepared seller.

For both parties, an educated relationship means the relationship is going to be built on trust. Buyers can have confidence that they are being sold in good faith, since their knowledge of the industry is going to push conversations forward and cut through any unnecessary information coming their way. And while sellers have to be on their toes to ensure they are keeping up, they can communicate with confidence that their pitch will be understood and the benefits of their product or service are received well.

So buyers — put sellers to the test. The best salespeople will be ready and embrace the challenge, and understand how to sell to the most educated buyers. Syms knew that their smartest customers would be the ones to get the most value out of their stores, and B2B sellers should understand that the smartest customers will get the most value out of their products as well. It’s not just suits and men’s wear — it can ultimately make a big difference for your companies as well.

Technology is no substitute for human connection, and our State of Sales report shows that when used strategically, it can help bring you closer to who you want to reach.Download The LinkedIn 2018 State of Sales Report today.