In any B2B sales situation of a complex product, the prospect is usually shopping for a solution to a problem, rather than shopping for a product, although most conversations I see still seem to be about a product.
This idea that a potential customer is product shopping rather than problem solving leads to the conclusion that alternative products are commodities, and all that differentiates is the applicability of your commodity to the solution of the problem.
It holds then that the more information you have about the problem faced, the more likely you are to be successful at building the case for your solution.
Clearly, customers do not see all purchases as solutions to problems. Often buyers just repurchase product X because it worked in the past, quick, and saves the risk of being wrong.
Therefore, it is incumbent on the seller to understand the context of use sufficiently well to be able to point out where your option will not just solvethe problem, but do so better than any alternatives. The pitch then has the chance of being persuasive, as the problem has been articulated, rather than just having the buyer leaping to a solution.
In most cases these days, the early part of the sales job has been replaced by the search capability of the net, in most cases a buyer believes they have most of the information they need to make a decision, with just a few details outstanding, predominantly price.
The sales job therefore is to make that last little bit really compelling, differentiating the pitch from all the rest.
This challenge of articulating the problem, rather than competing on product specifications holds true for the SME around the corner, as much as it does for multination enterprises.