This is a Mutually Beneficial Business Relationship

solution selling
One of my favorite sales stories of all time is probably an urban legend. It was told me years ago by a big money, enterprise b2b sales VP. I call it the “Jack Welch Story”. Since 70% of my reading audience is under that age of 30, you can read about Jack here. In a nutshell, he is one of the most legendary CEO’s in the 20th century. He led GE, one of the iconic companies in America. Big player, if not the biggest. Anyway, the story is really simple:  a sales executive gets a meeting with Jack Welch. Jack walks in, shakes his hand and says:

Ok…so how can we make each other money today?

Notice he doesn’t ask “what are you selling?” He is setting the table for the sales person to deliver a BUSINESS PROPOSITION. Check that: A MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL BUSINESS PROPOSITION – something that works for both sides.

I often play that out in my head. I’ll start with the wrong answer: You would not show him a demo, you would not pitch your product, you wouldn’t even do a corporate slide deck. Can you imagine? “Awesome, let me have my SE fire up a demo and show you our latest feature.” PFFT.

I think I have told this story before, but I remember one software company that was transitioning from selling to IT to selling to marketing. They were getting meetings with CMOs, VPs of Marketing and it was going TERRIBLY. This wasn’t a small potatoes company, they had built a considerable business selling to IT. The problem was, they were using the same playbook – brief slide deck, intro to SE, SE technical demo…Guess what, CMO’s were leaving the meeting 20 minutes in. Not once, but 30-40% of the time. The other meetings were ending with the marketers asking the question: “I am still not sure why we need this.” No business value, no love.

So, lets approach how you would get to answering the question: “How can we make each other money today? I don’t have 3 days to write this so I have some simple thoughts below. I am also trying to be realistic since no one that reads this blog is getting meetings with Jack Welch-esque decision makers. If you are, I love you. (sincerely).

Here are some important steps:

Pre-Call Discovery

  • Account Research – study the company, their corporate initiatives, the current state of their business. Key question: What can my solution do for their organization?
  • Contact Research – study the person, what he/she wants to achieve. Remember the vast majority of people buy for what it will do for them and then justify what it will do for the company.

Discovery (spend time with the prospect understanding their business from their point of view)

  • What challenges can you solve for them? What are the implications for the business and for them personally?
  • Ask the right questions and understand why you are asking the questions and what you will do with the answers.

Editor note: This is not new. I didn’t invent this. I was taught this 20 years ago and it had been around for awhile.

Customized Value Proposition or The Business Proposition

  • Channel Jack Welch: What is the business proposition here?
  • You gotta believe it. You have to be able to pound your fist on the table and declare that they need to solve this problem and you have the best solution for this problem and this is what solving problem will do for them. Them, them, them, them, them, them. (that’s me chanting)


  • First of all, you would not deliver a demo to Jack Welch.
  • Secondly, instead of showing the product and praying they like it. Use the demo to show them how you will live up to your business proposition. It’s different. Your goal in discovery and research is be able to go into the demo with: “Based on what I know about your business, there are 3 core challenges that need to be solved. In this demo we will show you how we would solve them…” versus: “Let’s fire this puppy up and I will show you every feature in hopes that you will decide how it will work for you.”

And so on. Let me say one more thing. My buddy Anthony Iannarino emphasizes the need for sales people to develop business acumen. He’s right. You can’t propose a mutually beneficial business relationship if you can’t understand their business.

Oh, and on the mutually beneficial part. This is simple. Remember, Jack Welch says: “How can we make each other money today?” If you can make him money, he will pay you money for that. Lots of it.


That is all.

The image. Of course, I was going to put up a pic of Jack Welch…but I saw this and just liked it better. It’s beautiful. Image from Henrik Sandkief.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic and a co-founder of Topo. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Twitter because Twitter is cool.