When selling software and/or hardware there are a lot of different groups of people you need to talk to who all speak different business languages and quite often if it isn't a sell at any one level, it isn't a sell. Here are some tips for getting your technology in to a big corporate.
Before going to site and introducing the company to your product, there are some things you should always do:
- Know your product - This may seem like a no-brainer but all too often salesmen have to leave the room to call their IT guys to find out something which they really should already know. If you don't know the product inside and out how do you expect to be able to tell others why they want it?
- Know your competition - It's very unlikely you are the only one out there trying to sell a product which solves the same solution that your product solves. It's good to do a lot of research and even a SWOT analysis on all competing products just to see how your product compares.
- Know your customer - It's always good to see what products they are currently using and what their network infrastructure can handle so you know exactly what investment they would have to make in order to implement your product.
- Believe they need your product - If you've compared the products they are currently using to yours and you honestly believe objectively that what they are currently using is the same or better than your product or that the cost to upgrade would outweigh the benefits then be honest with yourself and leave it at that. This is a hard point for most people to take, they say, "Well, I'm a salesman, I'm meant to be able to sell ice to eskimos!". The technology industry is different though, aside from not wanting to be a sleazy salesman you also don't want other companies calling them to ask about your product and have them say, "It isn't working out for us". It could mean 10 or more lost sales instead of just 1. Don't be sleazy.
Once you are convinced in your own mind that your product can be of great benefit to the potential customer, it's time to go to them and explain your case.
Going to Site
There are 3 types of people you are likely to talk to during the process of discussing the product you have on offer and each group must be communicated to in a different way to properly promote your product.
Should you end up in a situation where all 3 types of people are in the same room make sure you can explain it from all 3 angles if required or keep each topic brief. When in doubt focus on talking about functionality rather than technical details.
These are the 3 types and what the focus of conversation should be:
- Management - Everyone you speak to is important but in the end it will come down to management to make the decision and place the budget. It will also be their job on the line if the product you sell them doesn't work as intended so it will be very important to earn their confidence (once again, being honest). Talk about other clients that have your product and how they are using it, this makes it easier for them to justify. If your product is rather new then focus on the things it does well and how it will improve productivity and reporting. Management love statistics and case studies. Leave out technical jargon unless they seem savvy with the terminology, if you are talking about things they don't understand then they may feel intimidated or put off.
- Front End Workforce - You may think the people actually using the product aren't the ones you need to sell to but you'd be amazed how many times it comes down to management asking staff for their impression of the product and that being the deciding factor. You get a lot of people working on the front end, some are excited for change, some are set in their ways and don't want to change and others just don't care. You really need to be sympathetic to all personalities, you don't want to be seen as the bad guy coming in to turn everything upside down when it is currently working. It's important to make it clear you aren't trying to make more work for them, you want to make their work easier and more enjoyable after all.
- IT and Technical - These guys generally don't care what your product does, only if it is going to be easy to implement and maintain. If your product uses software or server configurations they don't currently use or have experience with, it may be difficult to sell to them. Their concerns are often legitimate, even if your product is great, if their internal IT team don't have the resources to manage it then you will need to come up with alternatives, such as contracts to manage the servers for them, etc. When talking to their IT teams its good to use jargon as it shows you know what you are talking about, keep it light though as being too specific early on can make them hesitate thinking about the potential work load even if it isn't that scary.
A good technology salesman always knows when their product is good for the customer or potentially not so good, so be honest with your customer, they will respect you for it. If you think they are understaffed to acceptably manage the package then let them know, they may just decide to put on extra staff.
You are not trying to sell a dodgy used car, you are selling your brand, an easily tainted brand at that. It is always hard to get started in the technology business, the power of a brand is massive, managers don't get fired for failing to implement reputable branded technology, they get fired for taking risks on unknown brands. They don't get fired for using history proven technology, they get fired for trying the next big thing and having it not work out.
A sympathetic understanding of what could happen to your customer and their job should this not be the right choice for them will not only lead to them respecting you, it will make them respect your product and your brand.