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!

Sunday 17 June 2012

Talking Binary

I'm usually banging on about not talking features and instead how it is important to talk about benefits and value in the selling process. Well today I'm going to contradict that and talk about the need to talk binary and obscure technical details in the selling process.

Imagine you've done the perfect pitch to the board to solve their complex technology problem. You've got their attention :- you understand their need, what they want to achieve and they think you are credible, understand them and can solve their problems. They are pretty much ready to buy.

Now comes the due diligence. If you are selling something complex that integrates with your prospects business the value your solution proposes may well be insignificant compared to the risk it could present to the business. Time for the wizard inquisition.

You will be passed over to the back room boffins that speak binary. Your will need your own wizards that speak binary. This is a critical stage in the sales process since the boffins can influence the decision either way. If your wizards cant speak the same language and they don't have good responses to the spells the boffins are throwing at them then you can quickly loose credibility as a supplier or partner – you may lose the sale.

If this process goes well there can be a new level of respect. The peer level of respect between the boffins and wizards can be very valuable.

Don't leave this stage to chance. Wizards and boffins can be highly principled and honest. Too honest. You need to make sure your wizards understand the sales process too. I was once a wizard and looking back I can think of one particular sale where the sales lead made a massive mistake. He didn't educate me on the goals of the business, in other words what was important and I wasn't really trained to handle objections. In this situation, the boffin raised a valid point that the solution looked inefficient. I started digging a hole which was putting the sale in jeopardy.

Looking back I should have said something like “Yes I can see why you think this looks inefficient. Can you tell me more about [why this is a problem for you] [what you are comparing this to]”, rather than me trying to justify where we were. Technical inefficiency doesn't really matter unless there is a consequence. If the solution costs more than the competition as a result then it's bad news – if it burns more of their resources then it's bad news. If it's less efficient but still still a step change in say density, which the customer understands saves them money because floorspace is expensive, then it really isn't an issue.

So what's the message? Make sure you're prepared for the technical inquisition. Make sure you're wizards are well briefed and understand the situation and what is important to the prospect and that the wizards see an objection as an opportunity to gather more information rather than switch to a defensive argument about your technical approach.

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