10 Essentials: Knowing My Business vs. Knowing My Customer’s Business

The eighth in series of ten posts in a series titled: 10 Essential B2B Sales Rep Attributes (and their 10 Essential Opposites).

I Know My Business

Great salespeople know their business. They have a deep understanding of their products, their service offerings, and their company’s capabilities. They have a command of the features and benefits when they meet with their prospects. As you might imagine, this knowledge is critical in presenting ideas and solutions to prospects and customers. When a salesperson is really great, they understand how their product or service stacks up in the marketplace; they know their competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. Great salespeople spend time studying their company, their business, and the competitive landscape.

What if a salesperson doesn’t know their business? Unfortunately, this is all too common. When a salesperson doesn’t have a deep understanding of their business and how their company competes, they struggle to make sales. They call on prospects that their business can’t legitimately serve, and they fail to answer their prospect’s questions in way that allows the prospect to move forward with them confidently. In short, they blow deals they might otherwise have won.

As with the prior seven essentials, knowledge of one’s own business comes with it’s own set of problems; by itself, it isn’t enough.

I Know My Customer’s Business

To succeed in sales today, a salesperson must have more than a deep knowledge and understanding of their own business. They must also have a deep knowledge  and understanding of their customer’s business.

To create value for their customers, the salesperson must have a an understanding of their customer’s business, how their customer competes in their market, and the challenges and opportunities they must address as a business. This knowledge allows the salesperson to to understand how their product or service can help to make the customer more competitive in their market. This is an enormous competitive advantage for the salesperson.

Some salespeople misunderstand this to mean that they have to do a massive amount of research about a company or an industry before they can begin calling on prospects. Like all real education, it is accumulated slowly, over a long period of time. You might call this experience or situational knowledge.

The best way to acquire this knowledge is sitting face-to-face with your prospects and customers. To do so you need two things. First, you have to have sincere desire to understand their business. Second, you have to have a great set of questions (a great set of questions not only helps you acquire the knowledge and understanding, it also demonstrates your sincerity . . . you prepared).


Great salespeople know their business. They also know their customer’s business. They use their sales calls and encounters to get an education about their prospect and client’s business, and they use this knowledge to create value for their customers–a real competitive advantage. Like our previous seven essential attributes, both are necessary to succeed.


  1. Do you have a real practical working knowledge of your business beyond the features and benefits of your products and services?
  2. Do you understand your company’s strategy and how it plans to compete and win in its marketplace? Do you understand how your offerings create value?
  3. Have you spent the time to educate yourself on your customer’s business?
  4. Do you know how they compete in their marketplace?
  5. Do you understand the general challenges and opportunities with which they are confronted? The specific challenges?
  6. Can you use the knowledge of your business + the knowledge of your customer’s business to help make your customers more competitive in their market?

Filed under: Sales 3.0

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