In a B2B world, every buyer of services wants to know what else you’ve done in their sector. Everybody believes that their needs and problems are unique – and they may be right. Even if they aren’t, don’t try to dissuade them. You’re better off showing your understanding of their sector specific problems. Citing work experience within their industry is your single best bet to closing. Even mentioning large household names outside the industry is not as compelling as a small project within.

But what if it’s a sector you haven’t yet done work in – but know you can?

The solution is elegant – but requires some stick-handling. You talk about the problems and your experience with these rather than direct experience working in the sector. If you understand the problems – and these are the ones shared by your prospective customer if you’ve done your homework – you’ll be fine. It can even be better to come clean and confess no direct experience in mining or property management or whatever. But only after you’ve convinced them you know how to address their needs.

What never works though, is comparing similar businesses. Instead, your way in is to start with something like: “The mining companies who have approached me have asked me to streamline core sample logistics, as I’ve done for geologists.” This illustrates instead how the need can cross-over from their industry- and allows you to bring best practices from external sources. This offers them a chance to be a leader in their own sector.

In a previous blog, I wrote about the benefits of remaining within an industry sector – reputation and relationships being among the highest. Expertise is what you bring to solving specific problems, and your reputation & relationships help sustain you as you venture into other services outside your core. When you cross over, you need to rely more on very specific expertise, and position yourself accordingly. A generalist gets nowhere in the more parochial or specialized sectors.

The predisposition to sector specificity among buyers means that your messages need to be tuned accordingly. Sector specific case studies are one of the best ways of trumpeting your understanding of the unique needs, and approaches required. A list of clients within the sector can also be useful (if you have any). But more important than either of these is that you lead the discussion with mention of one or two significant industry challenges. Start by exhibiting sector specific knowledge, not by having it drawn out. As a colleague of mine is fond of saying : “Show, don’t tell”.


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