Every week I receive a lot of sales solicitations via email and phone.  Frankly, I get so many that the calls go to voicemail and email goes unread.  Like most buyers today, I'm busy and I don't want to listen to every pitch.  I'm usually focused on two or three "big" projects at one time, and everything else is an interruption.  In other words, I'm a normal B2B buyer in every sense.

If you are in sales and marketing, the best advice I can offer is to think like your customer.  Common sales advice tells you to learn the customer's pain on early calls and then pitch a solution.  Who is going to give you the time to learn their pain?  

Customers are not there to serve your needs, you are there to serve theirs.

This means you have a lot of homework to do when you are enter a new sales role.  Here are what I consider to be the minimum standards you need to meet before you can add value to a prospect and make a sale:

1.  Understand who your buyers are.  If your marketing department has not done this research, demand that they do.  For each role your company sells you, you need a detailed buyer persona that discusses the role, pain, needs and rewards this person seeks to do their job well.

2.  Ensure every customer-facing transaction adds value.  Even appointment setters need to add some value to a cold or follow up call.  Few things are more frustrating than a pitch where it is unclear what the "win" is for the prospect.  At the end of this first call, I should want to move on to the next call, not have to accept the next appointment just to get the basics.  This is one of the main reasons why your prospect is a no show to follow up calls.  At a minimum, every customer-facing person should be able to discuss three to five solid and measurable value propositions of your product.  

3.  Know your product.  At some point, many companies gave up trying to have salespeople understand the product.  This is perhaps, the single worst practice I see in today's sales climate.  If your company doesn't think you need to know your product, for the sake of your prospects and commission checks, please take it upon yourself to learn.  It's costing you and your company money if you must rely on other people to cover the technical and business benefits of your product.

Being serious about your sales career means taking responsibility for your education.  If your company can't or won't help you understand buyers, value and your product, learn them on your own.