As a sales consultant I run into many barriers during the sales process including heavy competition. As Sue Barrett talks about in her article

“customers regularly avoid making a decision or stall their decision” which is a big challenge and I do often spend an enormous amount of time and resources stuck in the pre-sales phase.

stuck in a rut with tony bilby

Stuck in the rut

Relevant Factors:

  1. Customers are bombarded with information and salespeople are like lobbyists trying to persuade a potential customer to look at whichever technology they are trying to lead with.
  1. The larger customer, the larger the organization, the more committee-based decision-making there is. So, that is a challenge as well.

Sue talks about overwhelming a customer with too much information and freezing them out. I see this all the time. In fact, I represent a technology automation company that brings so many use cases to the customer that many times they do feel overwhelmed. Some of the many responses I hear: “Where do I go first?” “I’m confused by everything you do.” “Isn’t this the same as XYZ company?” “I’m sorry, I deal with so many technology vendors right now – it’s hard to separate truth from marketing.” “Your technology platform does so many different things it’s going to be hard for me to figure out which group within IT I should approach or try to get on-board with this.”

Sue brings in the “car analogy” which makes sense. When I go to buy a car or look at cars I care about a few things:  Does it look great? Is it efficient? Is it comfortable? Can I afford this? Is this worth the investment? What is the total cost of ownership (TCO) and will I see a return on investment (ROI). Now, granted, cars aren’t going to bring the best ROI because they depreciate as soon as you drive them off the lot, but business owners, business investors, are looking at similar aspects when they invest in technology. They don’t need every detail and I think sales consultants and engineers often go way overboard when trying to sell a particular technology and get way into “the weeds.” If a car salesman tried to explain every technical benefit of the car, every feature, function, and benefit I would not only lose interest, but probably become annoyed.

As Sue recommends, approach a technical sale from the business perspective. Approach the business and describe how the technology and service will benefit the business over everything else! Also, she mentions getting in front of the most senior people possible, which I agree with, as I’m always trying to bring value and conversations to Directors, VP’s, CTO’s, and CIO’s.

In her article she also talks about different value propositions for different stakeholders. This is very true. As an example, if you are trying to sell software for automation, you will have a different story and value proposition for a service desk director that is trying to avoid manual scripting and manual processes in order to serve the business, versus a CIO who wants to see a larger picture which might involve better controls and the recovery of assets across the organization, verses a CFO who might be encouraged more about cost savings by eliminating the need for hiring a dozen more positions to service a particular project or application.

Information Technology has become an increasingly complex industry, however, the customers living in their environments often perceive most things as steady state or have the mentality of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” when approached for better processes, applications, and technologies to serve the business. This requires even more astute salespeople that are highly educated, certified, and able to evolve and adapt quickly to dynamic landscapes involving many decision makers, bombarded with information and choices, competitors everywhere, and a choice of whether to do really nothing at all or something that will create a more efficient and productive environment.

Tony Bilby