Selling Services and Technology in a Slump

Posted on April 11, 2010


Selling Services

Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies—which was selected as a Fortune “must read”—helps sellers crack open corporate accounts, shorten their sales cycles, and win big contracts. She’s a frequent speaker/trainer at national sales meetings and industry events.
  1. Adopt your customers’ objectives as your own. Invest time getting the straight scoop on their key performance indicators, strategic imperatives, and top priorities. Ask yourself, “How can I help my customer achieve these objectives?” Continually look for any ideas that could have an impact.
  2. Make sure every single contact is valuable – for your customer. Would your customer pay you $500 for every meeting? If not, you’re vulnerable. Unless customers think their time with you is well spent, there’s a high likelihood they could disappear into a black hole.
  3. Challenge your customer’s thinking. Ask provocative questions, bring fresh insights from outside the industry, offer a different perspective, and address assumptions or business directives that don’t quite make sense.
  4. Slow the decision process down. Harried customers, racing to get things done, want “the facts” as fast as you can deliver them. But too much gets missed without a full understanding. Help them understand why multiple conversations help them make better choices.
  5. Bring your customers a way to spend less money with your company. While this may hurt you financially at the onset, the trust it engenders pays for itself many times over. And, it’s better for you to bring up this topic than for your customer to hear about it from competitors.
  6. Frame everything from your customer’s perspective. Phone calls, meetings, presentations, and proposals are always about how you can help your customer achieve his or her objectives. Remember, your offering is simply a tool; it’s not what she wants.
  7. Update customers on what their colleagues are doing. Corporate decision makers, with their nose to the grindstone, often have no idea what others in the organization are doing. Bring them ideas from their peers in different divisions. Set up meetings to share best practices. Be the network.
  8. Respect their time; it’s their most precious commodity. The days of “winging it” are past. Customers today expect you to research their companies prior to meeting, come in with an agenda, ask insightful questions, and lead the conversation.
  9. Help customers understand and navigate the internal barriers to changes. The complexity of today’s solutions, combined with the challenge of getting internal buy-in and support, can be overwhelming for people who make these decisions once every few years. Give them guidance.
  10. Use changing priorities to continually bring value. Keep up-to-date on what’s happening in your customer’s organization, and always be asking: What ramifications does this have for his business? How can our products/services make a positive impact? Bring your ideas to your customer.
  11. Detach from the outcome. Sales is not all about closing. If that’s your focus, your customers can smell it a mile away. Instead, focus on whether the decision makes sense for your prospect—and be willing to walk from the opportunity if it doesn’t. 

Selling Technology

Dave Stein is CEO and founder of ES Research Group Inc. (ESR), which provides independent advice about sales training programs, sales performance improvement tools and approaches, plus evaluations and comparisons of the companies that offer them. Dave provides tips  for selling technology to companies.

  1. Don’t sell technology, sell business improvement. Your customers’ budget holders rarely care about the features of your technology. Right now they want to know one thing: what you can do to get them through this economic situation. Tell them.
  2. Understand that risk is a big concern to your customers. They are very concerned about risk—their companies, their jobs, their projects, your product, and making a mistake. Understand, anticipate, and mitigate their concerns. Don’t wait for them to ask. Provide references, assurances, proof statements, examples, try-and-buys—whatever it takes.
  3. If you have a truly unique product, demo early. If not, demo late. Don’t foster the product bake-off approach by asking your customers to compare your product to the competition’s. On the other hand, if you have a unique product, grabbing the prospect’s mindshare early can pay off.
  4. Qualify some more. In many companies, IT budgets are frozen. Since many salespeople tend to under-qualify, I’ll ask you this: Are you sure your product is seen as critical by your customer? If it isn’t, and you can’t reasonably position it that way, consider spending less time on that one and more on another opportunity.
  5. Execute better than your competition. There are fewer deals out there. You need to win more of them. Plan and precisely execute every phone call, demo, presentation, and reference visit so you are measurably better than your competition.
  6. Leverage the trend: IT people are becoming more business-oriented. There is increasing pressure on IT management to be more attuned to their companies’ business goals and strategies. Coach your IT sponsors on the business impact of your solutions so they can be better equipped in positioning them to their superiors and business manager counterparts.
  7. Don’t get distracted by all this new technology: Sales 2.0, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. There are plenty of new applications out there, and some can be very useful in helping to find and win new customers. But right now reps that are winning B2B deals are focused on what has been proven to work—following a buyer-centric sales process—without shortcuts, silver bullets, or the approach du jour.
  8. Focus on what and how your customers want to buy. Collaboration continues to be an effective sales approach. If your customer wants to phase in your product, or he wants only one module instead of the suite, don’t fight it. Help him buy what he wants to buy now. If it gets the job done, he’ll buy the rest later.
  9. Leverage your sales engineers. Many salespeople don’t understand the impact sales engineers can have. Include them in planning sessions. Keep them informed. Coach them on your strategy and the politics in the account. Make them a critical part of your overall plan.
  10. Tune up your competitive selling skills. As your competitors get more desperate, they’ll try anything to win. Anticipate what they will do, when they will do it, and with whom in your customer’s organization. Only then can you protect your plan, your relationships, and your value proposition from attack.

Posted via email from K3 Center Codex

Posted in: Marketing