Value-added technology sales
The IT value chain is broken in a number of places. This is a serious problem because modern societies depend on new technology. If value is being unnecessarily dissipated along the chain then both vendors and consumers lose out.
Technology sales needs to evolve to meet the needs of the digital age.
One of the critical links is between the vendor community and their enterprise customers. Here is a set of recommendations that can go some way to strengthening this weak link.
- Ensure the sales staff can speak the language of the tech sector. Depending on the nature of the offering and who the buyer is, this could be deeply technical. In respect of real-estate, whilst we don’t need estate agents to have the knowledge of architects and plumbers, we do expect them to know the difference between a bungalow and an apartment. Many technology sales professionals simply have no understanding of the basic terminology of their chosen industry. Their employers must take responsibility for this competence deficit.
- Ensure sales staff understand the context or use cases for their offerings, so they meet the needs of the customer rather than just the sales target of the vendor.
- Sales professionals need to deliver personal value over and above that of their ‘wares’. In the absence of this value the client conversations will typically revert to discount. Thus, sales professionals need to make selling themselves their first priority.
- Related to the previous point, sales professionals need to understand the importance of trust and relevance in respect of gaining and maintaining the attention of senior buyers. The objective of the first sales meeting is to sell the second one.
- With the growth of cloud-based XaaS offerings, the sales process moves from selling products and services to selling utilisation. Thus the remuneration model needs to evolve from the traditional ‘hit and run’ licence / product dump.
- Related to the previous point, ‘service is the new sales’. Those that spend most of their time on site with the client with their sleeves rolled up are in the best position to stimulate utilisation. This trend could signal the death of the traditional salesman. Smart sales professionals will develop their consultative skills such that their value is on a par with their organisation’s service professionals.
- Smart organisations will reward collaborative selling. The traditional sales approach drives self-serving behaviour that might well lead to short term sales but at the cost of long term reputational damage, thus perpetuating this technology value leakage.
Plug the leak
Digital age societies are underpinned by technology. There is much opportunity to plug the value leakage occurring at the interface between the technology vendor and the enterprise consumer.
One solution is to start with a technologist and give them the sales skills.
This can work, but good technologists need more than commission to motivate them. And not all technologists have matured their interpersonal skills to the level needed to be a credible sales professional, primarily because their career to date has not warranted it.
Most sales professionals have no issue with the clarity and possibilities associated with working to a simple KPI based on sales. I believe the technology sales career ladder needs an overhaul. It will be good for the vendor, the buyer and the sales professional.
A new ladder is needed
At one end of the ladder value is being squandered through the high volume of poor conversations ‘led’ by confused sales rookies. At the other end, experienced sales professionals are squandering the rare situations where they find themselves face to face with a CxO, and thus such encounters continue to be rare.
The technology sales process is evolving as the world moves from the industrial to the digital age.
The sales profession needs to adapt accordingly.