The 4 Types of B2B Customers

(This is a guest post by Kenny Nguyen, who has spent the last six years helping B2B companies with marketing and sales. He describes himself as a guy who “doesn’t like sales, but you have to sell if you’re going to help people.” You can find Kenny on Twitter.)

types of b2b customers - illustration - i'm so fired

It’s hard to keep tab of sales when we’re talking to one potential customer after another. B2B startups founders – with limited sales experience, myself included – have trouble with qualifying leads.

Every customer we talk to ends up being qualified customers somehow, someway.

As a consequence, focus ends up being diluted across way too many leads at the same time. B2B founders could benefit from having a fast and effective qualification process then talking to B2B customers. There are great tools out there to help manage pipelines, ask questions, flowcharts, and analyze potential sales top-down, but there isn’t much available to help qualify potential customers in a no-nonsense manner.

To cut to the chase, you can download the cheat sheet here:

icon - download sumome

Too Much Jam in the PBJ

Many B2Bs qualify potential customers by jotting down simple notes during sales meetings. Those that are more disciplined will have a cheat sheet of questions to ask and scripts that outline salient topics. When meetings are finished, people look at their sales pipeline on the computer screen and arbitrarily shove new leads (be it truly qualified or not) somewhere in the pipeline and go from there.

types of b2b customers - framework - sales pipeline

And after shoving so many different leads into the pipeline, B2Bs begin losing track on what is truly qualified, what is still in discovery mode, what is unqualified, and what should move back into the marketing funnel.

Too many leads can be intimating when we have limited time to go out and sell.

2×2 Equals Sanity

We need to focus on the two most important variables:

  1. Does the potential customer understand they have a problem?
  2. How urgently is the customer looking for a solution?

Our 2×2 for qualifying potential customers should look something like this:

types of b2b customers - framework - sales 2x2

We can categorize potential customers by laying them out on this matrix using a wall with tape and sticky notes, or on a piece of paper.

This allows us to quickly map, checklist, and classify when talking to potential customers. If mapped effectively, we can read into the prospect’s priority level and whether or not the prospect is going to buy something now, or much (much) later.

Let’s imagine four different personas reacting to a building on fire:

types of b2b customers - illustration - 4 personas & building on fire

  • Fire Freddie: Knows that the building is on fire and is urgently looking for a solution.
  • Smokey Sam: Notices there is a problem, but is not sure where the smoke is coming from.
  • Issues Eli: Also knows that the building is on fire, but has more urgent problems to solve.
  • Confused Craig: Has no clue what is going on and/or doesn’t care.

The Master Checklist

Every startup needs a checklist to qualify leads as real opportunities. The checklist will be different for startup to startup and we need to figure out the ideal qualifying criteria for our product, industry, and customers. But we need to startup with something, so here’s a starting point similar to what you’d find in most B2B sales play books. Here are examples:

  1. Budget: Is there a budget earmarked for a solution? Are you in contact with the economic buyer?
  2. Pain: Can the evangelist or economic buyer quantify costs and pains of not having “your” solution
  3. Benefits: Do they think your solution will help them get more customers?
  4. Evangelist: Do the evangelist’s colleagues also see the problem? Or is the evangelist alone?
  5. Technical Buyer: Are there hidden costs of objections to buy or implement your solution?

What’s Next?

So far we have laid out a way to map and qualify potential customers. We also have a checklist that will give guidance on where and how to map potential customers. You can find a downloadable cheat sheet below for reference.

This tool will help quickly figure out which leads are qualified leads to focus on.

icon - download sumome

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