PEOPLE DON’T LIKE TO BE SOLD TO, BUT THEY LOVE TO BUY!
Funny, it doesn’t sound like that when I attend a sales planning session or a review…the buzzwords popping up in those meetings read like : lead generation, growth hacking, warm and cold calling, C-level introductions, product positioning, etc...
Out of curiosity, keeping the title quote in mind, I consulted Google and searched for “TOP 5 technology purchase criteria”. The first title that didn’t try to sell me a fantastic procurement tool or any equally amazing procurement consulting services, but looked like an answer to my question was this :
5 Steps for Choosing a Technology Vendor
list problems to solve according to priority
evaluate providers based on how well they solve problems
negotiate with your top picks
decide based on value and vision
It is not a huge surprise that we don’t find: “Call the sales representative sending you most introductory emails". Nor does it say: “Reach out to your management team’s golf partners.” Or anything of that sort...It doesn’t say anything at all about a sales representative and his or her persistent effort to draw your attention to his/her product or service.
Does this mean that sales is just an overhead and not a need? Not at all, of course!
Does it put the importance of sales in perspective? Yes, it does, obviously!
An excellent sales representative will be well aware about problems clients need to solve and will get insights in customers' priorities, not only those ones listed on a Request of Proposal but also the ones that aren’t necessarily reflected in the formal requirements. With this valuable information the company can design the best possible solution or identify the best fitting product. In other words, the client’s first step in the buying process has been properly addressed. Is it the result of an email/calling campaign? Possibly yes, most likely no. It is most probably the result of an existing relationship.
Getting your name on the list of vendors can happen in 2 ways that very often go together. The first path is the one driven by marketing : product/service branding and online as well as offline presence in the public space. This gartner diagram says it all.
The second path is prospection and sales, or call it personal awareness creation. This happens through some formal but mainly a lot of informal personal contacts, between buyer and seller but also between buyer and buyer. Reputation of the company and its sales rep are key! A good reputation comes by foot , but leaves by horse…
3. Once your company and product/service has been taken into consideration as a potential supplier, it’s team time.
Relationships need to be cultivated on all possible levels with all members of the buying group. Problem solving skills of the team and solution features must be demonstrated in the right way and to the right people. This is where sales turns into team coaching. Formal and informal communications become essential. A single misunderstanding can lead to a lost deal. It’s the team that will feature on the list of top picks, not just the product nor just the sales person. The time of lonely goal getters dates from a century ago. Success is the merit of the team, guided by the coach : the sales representative.
4. One tends to forget that negotiation skills are a must for every sales representative. Negotiation skills are not to be mixed up with bargaining skills. The negotiations start as soon as the buying process starts. In the final stage of the process the bargaining simply becomes a non-essential part of it. The better the negotiations are conducted, the higher the likelihood of eventual success. And what is the foundation of good negotiations? Indeed, knowledge! When is that knowledge gathered? The earliest possible in the procurement process and preferably even before it starts. Know Your Customer isn’t just a regulatory issue, it is a simple must for winning a deal.
5. Value and vision are no product features. They even aren’t company characteristics. They are the client’s persuasion and valuation at the end of the decision phase. It is objective and subjective at the same time and shared by a group of individual people.
The key success factor for sales is NOT the number of emails, linkedin-messages, cold or warm introductions per se.The key success factors are value and vision. They don’t reach the prospects via emails or alike, how personal they may look. Belief of value and vision is the result of a process requiring time and persisted effort. A deal follows a buying decision taken by a buyer following a time schedule defined by the buyer, not by the seller.
Let me end with a single advice to every start-up: start your sales journey as you start developing your idea and don’t wait until the product is finished. Persuading your prospects of your value and vision will probably take more time than the development of your product.