My job is selling technology. Actually I'm more of a translator. I sell technology to other businesses and that's where things get weird. There is a bewildering array of tech out there and unfortunately many companies think technology sells itself and the value that the technology delivers should be obvious. Wrong. That's where I come in. I said I was a translator. My job is to translate techno babble into value that customers understand. This blog share my adventures with high tech sales. Selling high tech is fun so come join me on my sales journey!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Don’t sell technology

This week, Howard Thomas our Head of Marketing writes about not selling technology....

I love technology. I have spent my career working with it, whether it be access systems, ASIC design, optical transmission systems or more recently in two technology based start-up companies. I have been in the design side as well as the Product Management of Technology and it’s all been a blast.

The pace of change and bewildering array of technology means I struggle to keep up.... I-pad, I-phone, I-don’t know what, Twitter and the really popular BookFace which everyone is using. In fact I love that you can’t really keep up with it all – we do well to keep up with some of it.

However, one of the things that I do note as I look at the ads in Tech magazines and technology companies web sites is that tech companies often push the technology (features).

Sounds a little odd doesn’t given what I have just said but what I want to know is what will all this lovely tech stuff actually do for me?

Many tech companies are in fact poor at marketing. They talk about fancy features and give them even more confusing acronyms for example Sony's XR400 motion flow technology.....totally meaningless twoddle.

Examples are everywhere. Sexy technology that runs this operating system, or does more mega-flops than an inebriated amateur diver is all well and good – and if you’re a tech head I’m sure it’s all very interesting. BUT… what does it do for the end user?

You know, the poor person who is actually the customer. Yes that’s right, the individual who actually splashes his or her hard earned cash on this wonderful product – what benefits does it deliver?

If the product doesn’t deliver any tangible, measurable benefits then what’s the point? But of course the vast majority of products DO deliver benefits but the company’s marketing just doesn’t make it clear. But boy can you read about the technology. And as for those mega-flops….

As a Product Manager I got into the habit of asking the tech-heads the “so what?” question. It would go like this.

Tech Head:   “This device can send 5 gazillion bits down this ying-yang”
Me:               “So what?”
Tech Head:    “Well we can squeeze more into the ying-yang”
Me:                “So what?”
Tech Head:     “Well it improves the utilisation of the ying-yang”
Me:                “So what?”
Tech Head:     “Well it lowers the cost per bit down a ying-yang”
Me:                “So what?”
Tech Head:      “Well a new ying-yang is mega bucks – they dont need to buy another one”

The point I’m making is that all this technology must have a purpose. It must bring some benefit to the customer – in this case the benefit is lower cost and the value is it avoids the need for new investment in expensive ying-yangs .

The “so what?” question is a tad old now, and maybe it’s gone out of fashion but it really is important. I think there are many companies – not just those in the high tech sector - who should ask themselves this question. A business needs to be really clear on what they are selling and why customers buy what they are selling.

Another way of looking at it is to ask a slightly different question. I was speaking with an Angel Investor recently about a Music Technology product that is being developed by a small start-up company that I was working with. I thought I’d clearly outlined the benefits – my 30 second elevator pitch was very polished... or so I thought.

He then simply said this: “What problem does it solve?”

Like the “so what?” question, this can help focus the mind and we would all do well to remember this.

Customers dont buy features, they buy the value that benefits deliver. Value to customers is when a feature has value. If the customer has lots of unused ying-yangs the benefit of lower cost per ying yang will probably not light their fire!

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