20+ years ago I was teaching a public Solution Selling workshop in Del Mar, California. I was going around the room, asking each participant what they sell.
Most attendees were selling some kind of technology based, B2B productivity improving system to a committee of risk averse buyers. I got around to ‘Richard,’ and I asked him what he sells. He responded, “Mike, I sell glue.” I then said, “Tell me about the glue.” He was a chemical engineer selling industrial adhesives and got into a very detailed description of the glue – bonding strength, resistance to heat fluctuations, vibration, mold, etc. I watched the eyes of the rest of the participants roll up into their heads. I stopped him and said, “Richard, it sounds to me like you are using the word glue as a noun. Can you change it to a verb and tell me about your product?” He was a smart guy (Master’s in Chemical Engineering from MIT). He immediately switched to the customer’s usage of his glue. Now everybody in the room “got” Richard’s product.
Over the past 35 years as a sales trainer, focusing primarily on complex, B2B “solution” sales, “Product Marketing” has been charged with teaching new salespeople “the product.”
Too many product experts have never actually experienced how their existing customers are using their products to make money, save money, solve problems or achieve goals. This lack of customer usage perspective results in noun oriented product training.
Noun oriented product training results in sellers saying, “Our Solution will do this; our solution, will do that.” They think of ‘their solution’ as an “IT.”
This noun oriented product oriented training is ruining both the selling and buying experience! It makes the ‘product’ responsible for solving a problem that in most cases the prospect has not even admitted to the seller.