Selling Technology: Best Practices for Sales People
Selling technology presents unique challenges relative to selling other types of solutions. Tech solutions are often expensive, require in-depth research for buyers, and provide value that can be difficult to quantify.
For all of these reasons, it takes special skill and preparation to succeed in this industry. Here are a few examples of best practices to help turn sales leads into customers in a technology industry.
Clearly emphasize long-term benefits
A lot of the value provided by high-tech solutions takes place behind the scenes. It is also difficult at times to compute return on investment with direct revenue or cost-savings metrics. The best place to start is with a deep understanding of the customer business, as well as the critical business issues the buyer faces.
You have to clearly articulate the long-term benefits to the business and its customers. For instance, you might sell a software solution that simplifies a critical process for a company department. Don’t focus on the technical nature of the solution, focus on the time-savings, reduced stress for users, and enhanced customer experience.
It is imperative that you identify the different roles people play and really emphasize the benefits that appeal most to those roles.
Map out each of the people in the buying process and make sure you have a strategy in place that allows you to communicate your business benefits to each of the stakeholders. As an example these might include:
- The CEO
- The finance director
- The sales director and his sales team
- The IT director and his support staff
- The operations director and his team who may have to roll out user acceptance testing
- HR and facilities who may be involved in training
Show your “support”
It isn’t just the impressive capabilities of your solution that a B2B buyer cares about. Change resistance is one of the primary roadblocks to selling technology. Therefore, a buyer wants to know that you will be there after the sale to support the technology transition.
Focus on your role as a “partner” in ensuring users will get up to speed quickly so the organization can quickly realize the benefits promised. A commitment to post-sale installation and setup, technical support, and training are often necessary to seal a technology deal. Particularly when there are a number of different parties whose needs require addressing.
A number of years ago whilst working for a large telco, I was trying to close a deal with a very large mobile operator. The CIO was on board and budgets had been approved. However, my big stumbling block was the engineering team itself—the guys who do the day-to-day support. They had concerns around our delivery capability and expertise.
If I was to push this deal through, I needed the buy-in of the customer's engineering team. And they weren’t playing ball with me. I had to come up with a plan to get their trust and respect.
I set up a meeting with the CIO and his head of engineering and asked them to bring their engineering support team. All of them. They didn’t look overly happy at being dragged into a “sales” pitch.
I had brought along our engineering support manager and eight of his direct staff who would be dealing with any support issues the client may have in the future. I had also taken the time to put together a detailed breakdown of the qualifications and experience of each person on our engineering team to share with the client.
I recognized that even though I had developed a good relationship with the decision makers, their engineering team needed confirmation that they would receive the same or better support than they were currently receiving from the incumbent. And to date, they knew little or nothing about the people they would be relying on for support, apart from an overview in a proposal document.
They had a justifiable concern and needed proof we could deliver what I was saying we could deliver. I knew that the best way to deliver that proof was to have them meet the people who would be working with them.
I introduced everyone around the table. I talked them through an example scenario. I explained that when James (from the client’s team) logged a call for support regarding a firewall issue, he would be dealing with Ian. If it needed to be escalated, it would be Dan from our team whom they would be dealing with. And I passed across Ian and Dan’s credentials.
I did this for everyone around the table, ensuring each and every person knew who they would be working with across both organizations, the process, and what to expect. The mood changed considerably for the better.
Needless to say, that meeting secured the deal for me.
Meet concerns head on
Apart from that example, there are many other concerns a prospect can have. User frustration, lack of compatibility, unexpected costs, and constant errors are among the common experiences that give technology buyers nightmares. It is likely a reluctant B2B buyer has faced more than one of these. These fears are why many B2B buyers spend a lot of time researching options online before ever making contact with a provider.
You must remember that there are personal as well as professional concerns for each person in the process. You need to be able to address them on a professional, personal, and intellectual level.
Make a concerted effort to draw out the primary concerns of your buyer. Be prepared to offset each of the common concerns buyers have about your solution with clear value, and if you can, offer product demonstrations to allay some solution-related fears. It is also worth noting that, although your solutions has all the bells and whistles, integration with current systems that are already in place may need to be addressed.
Current customers are always a sure-fire way to help sway any concerns, particularly when it comes to talking about support and service quality. Share testimonials and satisfied user references to negate concerns about the quality of the user experience. Would you refer someone you didn’t trust?
Don’t run from buyer worries or fears. Instead, show genuine empathy and a desire to reduce their frustrations and provide a happier user experience.
Pre-sell with content
The job of a salesperson is made much easier when your company delivers useful, relevant content to B2B tech buyers early in their investigation. Offer informative, educational content off-site and in your company blogs.
The buying process is a journey that can take place over many months, sometimes years, so connect with prospects on social media platforms like LinkedIn to start the conversation informally.
Demonstrate your value over time by building up influence and trust in your respective communities.
Your clients' situation and needs may change over time so keep up-to-date through proactive communication. Don’t wait for your clients to update you. Keep them informed in a positive manner with ideas or content that may be relevant to their situation. It shows you have a good understanding of their business requirements.
As with other types of solutions, you need to understand common expectations and concerns of tech buyers to sell effectively. Emphasize long-term benefits to various stakeholders, focus on your post-sale support, and actively draw out buyer fears.
When selling technology, know your solution, know your prospect, know your limitations, be a problem solver, and act like a consultant.
This article was written by Will Humphries from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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