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!

Thursday 20 December 2012

Trust Based Sales

People don't trust sales.  In today's modern society, people have developed  highly tuned senses, able to detect a looming sales pitch with very few cues.
I noticed it myself this week  in an email from someone I hadn't spoken to in a long time. It wasn't
pushy but a couple of words triggered a response that put me on guard that  if I wasn't careful I would open
the sales flood gates.

This has led me to wonder whether we will see a change in how successful sales may happen in the
future.  These future sales may be based solely on trust.

I've seen this kind of pattern in the Open Source Software community. Some software vendors
provide free fully functional versions of their software products. The commercial version is more
thoroughly supported and have more sophisticated features.  Here the "sales" people are the
company's technical support.  They provide support (for free) to the community, fixing issues
and generally fostering trust in the product.  Once the trust is established, up-selling is possible.

Many consumer products, particularly web based ones, provide a free watered down version
of their product to gain customers in the hope they can up-sell to more sophisticated fee paying

Giving all this free stuff away may work in software where there production costs are low but
I can't see Ford, Fedex or other similar organisations adopting these kinds of loss leaders.

This recipe is not guaranteed.  The challenge (and I think this is a marketing challenge) is to identify the minimum viable functionality to give away free.  Give away too much and customers will fail to
see the value in purchasing a commercial version.  Dropbox I think has this problem.  I can't
see the value in upgrading - the free version meets my needs.

So what can we learn from this trend?

Well giving stuff away free can't work for every business and it clearly depends on whether there is trust already.  Take a new chain of supermarkets.  Provided the products are familiar, I am happy show in
a different supermarket.

Relying on customers to consciously decide to up-sell themselves is not a good way to achieve revenue targets.  There needs to be a balance between trust and familiarity and pushing the up-sell.

People don't consciously do things.  Reputation based selling requires people spread the positive word and that doesn't happen by itself in the same way that bad news is spread.

Take 100 sales.  You might get 1 or 2 people spreading the word if you do a good job and they may only pass the good news onto 1 or 2 of their friends.  Whereas if you do a bad job, then 30-40 of your disgruntled sales will spread negative opinions to 10 or more people.  Negativity is more powerful than positivity. This explains the phrase "loyalty takes years to acquire but can be lost in a second".

The temptation may be to be unethical and employ paid ravers - some unscrupulous companies do this. Not a great tactic as your reputation can be destroyed in seconds if this is ever discovered.

The future holds challenges for companies to operate with trust, without being pushy and rely on word of mouth with integrity.