Risk Management

Intrinsic Selling: The Power of Intrinsic Selling

1966 was the year that one of the most important lessons about B2B selling was revealed. Harvard Business Review Warren J. Wittreich’s article, “How to Sell Professional Services” explains the differences in extrinsic versus intrinsic sales tactics.

Wittreich says extrinsic sales is when a B2B vendor relies on previous successful work for customers as a way to validate their capabilities and ability to perform for potential customers. Extrinsic selling has a weakness in that it requires prospective customers to take a leap of faith and believe that the service provider will deliver results that are comparable or better than the past work of their clients. Many B2B service and product providers use extrinsic selling as a trust me approach.

However, intrinsic selling is a different story Not It is not acceptable for a prospect client to choose a seller based on work done for other clients. Instead, it engages with the prospect in a meaningful conversation that:

  • Addresses their specific situation
  • Demonstrates the seller’s knowledge of their situation on a first-hand basis.
  • This validates the seller’s ability to assist the potential buyer

Intrinsic sales gives buyers a much higher level of confidence and results in a sale or engagement more frequently than extrinsic.

B2B marketing professionals are charged with empowering sales teams with tools and methods that facilitate and initiate intrinsic selling. This is not possible with client/customer “case studies”, which are frequently used and rarely seen by prospective clients. They also carry the same credibility as references on a job application’s resume. What company would ever publish past work examples that weren’t highly successful?

Use simple tools to engage prospects

The introduction of energy derivatives by Phibro Energy, which allowed large companies to hedge the price risk of gasoline, jet fuel and heating oils was a good example of intrinsic selling. His CEO at Phibro knew that to get the attention and buy trust from CFOs of FORTUNE 500 companies, Phibro needed to have more than just fancy brochures. The CFO needs to be able to explain how energy derivatives can benefit his company in order to sell it on the idea.

Phibro Energy gave its sales reps a simple worksheet that they could use to create an intrinsic sales culture. This worksheet was created to approximate the company’s exposure to energy prices. The worksheet is based on projected and past volumes of fuel oil, jet fuel, gasoline, and heating oil. The prospective client used the sales reps to demonstrate to CFOs at the table how energy risk management would affect their company’s balance sheets.

The energy exposure worksheet from Phibro allowed their sales reps establish an intrinsic sales dynamics. It also repositioned their role and stature. The CFO no longer saw the sales rep as just a pusher of products or services, but instead saw Phibro Energy’s potential benefits in tangible terms. Prospective clients saw Phibro’s sales representatives as consultants who could help their company reduce economic risk and lower operating costs.

B2B marketers have the same opportunities as B2C to create tools and disciplines that enable their sales reps to harness the power of intrinsic marketing.


We are a team of professionals with each having two decades of experience in start-ups, sales, marketing, finance, HR, large scale project and profit centre management and running mature cross functional operations. At Molw.net we are big believers that knowledge transfer is critical to our industry’s evolution. We love to share our experiences and learnings through our online resources.

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