“The consumer who takes the medication we manufacture is not our customer – the doctors and pharmacists who make the medication choice are”

“The wholesaler who on-sells our product is not our customer – the retailer is”

“The wholesaler who just picks, packs and moves our product is not our customer, but the distributor who moves product and adds value of their own to it is”

I am too frequently stopped in my tracks by statements like this from various B2B Heads of Sales.  These responses call into the question the apparently superficial and flippant question – “who is your customer”.  We cannot characterise the real world examples above by the common theme of who trades directly with the company in question.  In the first example, the manufacturer trades with wholesalers …. Not the doctors, pharmacists or consumer.  In the second example, the wholesaler again is who the manufacturer trades directly with.  In the third example, both wholesalers and distributors are directly traded with by the company in question.

We can conclude that sales organisations will typically ascribe the label “customer” to the entity that seems to have most decision making and influence on their ultimate sales success.  But from the perspective of sales team productivity and strategy, this can be a dangerously myopic view.

Come back next week and we will discuss why.