Every technology company must continually and convincingly tell their product (and service) differentiation story, particularly newer or less established companies.
However, while having a great product gets you into the game, it is not enough to win a complex, B2B sale. The tech company graveyard is littered with the bones of companies that had great products, but failed.
How do you recognize when the organization is betting too heavily on its product’s features and benefits? And how can you swing the pendulum back from product-centricity?
This briefer reviews some fundamental issues and fixes for newer technology companies, particularly those in which the CEO is founder and chief product developer. Some signs to look for:
How do you fare against larger competitors head-to-head? Does any part of this scenario sound familiar: In pursuit of a sale, you’ve worked extremely hard to reach those whom you believe are the decision makers. You have addressed how your product can ease or eliminate the prospect’s pain. You’ve completed an impressive demo. These stakeholders are sold!
Then you find out they have to pass it by the CIO for approval (in fact, your contacts weren’t the decision makers, they were the recommenders). No problem, you’ve thoughtfully and carefully walked through implementation, timeline, expected results and ROI; this is just a formality. Then you find out that the CIO asks, “Will the offering from our strategic supplier (e.g. IBM, SAP, etc.) do the job?” Your “decision maker” replies, “Yes, but this recommended product is much better.” The CIO doesn’t care that much about your superior functionality; he/she prefers to buy an inferior and possible more expensive product that “does the job” from a larger player that they are already doing business with. All your hard work has effectively created a lead and sale for your competitor.
You hear: “If we can just get the product in front of people, they’ll buy…” Whether it’s your CEO, your head of sales or engineering, there is a prevalent belief that the only thing needed for success is for the right eyeballs to see it. The product is so special, so compelling, so earth-shattering that it sells itself. The response is typically more aggressive attempts at cold calls, appointment setting, ratcheting up the volume and intensity around databases and ads.
Each sales call begins with “The Solution” – In your sales pitches, after some introductory niceties, the conversation goes immediately to the solution you’re offering with a full description of the features and benefits. The centerpiece of the discussion is the solution with very little discovery and questions about the customer.
Here are some fixes to consider if you believe your organization is too “product-centric.”
- Doing the Right Things at the Right Time — It takes a seasoned, patient, mature professional to take the time to work through a discovery process. The prospect will likely want to jump right to the solution. Make sure you are unearthing all the issues and defining problems on mutually agreed upon terms. If the prospect wants an ERM solution, make sure you’re defining ERM the same way.
- Understand Transitioning Points of Emphasis in the Sales Process — Over time, the buyer’s issues shift in priority. Early in the buying process, the main concern is “Will the product or solution fit my needs?” Once they are convinced that your product will meet the needs (and maybe also your competitor’s product), the customer’s focus shifts to risk and value. Be ready to talk about risk and value strategically.
- Decision Makers – Businesspeople understand that you have to be in contact with decision makers but it takes adept selling to get in front of the right people, particularly if you’re being blocked from the decision makers. In a committee buying process, for example, not all of the buying influencers care about the product in the same way. Some are looking for a product that will do the job at the lowest cost. Some are looking for a product that is from an established supplier because it poses lower risk (in their perception). Knowing all the roles and meeting their expectations and apprehension takes skill.
- Adjusting Sales Intensity – Sales intensity ebbs and flows. And intensity does not just mean more frequent calls. It may mean less frequent contact but contact that is face-to-face. Finding the right balance is relatively easy with the right metrics being evaluated and appropriate turns of the screwdriver.
Many times one or more of these elements is at the root of your sales/revenue problem; not the ability to demonstrate your products in an exciting way.
Brad is a long time sales veteran, with more than 25 years experience in sales leadership and executive management. Brad is currently Vice President of Sales for Revegy, Inc., a sales enablement platform focused on sales planning, execution and pipeline acceleration.