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 29 May 2013

Selling information - it's a lottery isn't it?

This week I've been pondering the challenges of selling information.  Data is information without context.  If I said I wanted to sell you some lottery numbers, unless you were naieve,  you probably wouldnt pay anything for them since they are probably just made up numbers. In other words the numbers would be data.

 Now if I said that they were winning lottery numbers then you might be a little more interested. Now if I said they were jackpot winnng numbers for this weekend's draw they would suddenly have value. You might wonder how I had come to acquire such valuable information - provided I could convince you of their authenticity, you would be prepared to pay a lot for them. 

Say the jackpot was £10M. You'd happily pay £1M for my information.

Now lottery numbers are an unusual case. You are unlikely to pay me £1M up front for those numbers.  The interesting thing is I could actually do a deal.  I could agree no money up front and you agree to give me £5M of the £10M winnings.  Suddenly you're prepared to pay 5x the value for the information than I was previously asking for, to eliminate the risk of paying me £1M up front !
The risk of paying a few pound for a losing ticket is preferable to spending £1M for some losing advice.

Now let's return to the £1M scenario.  Assuming you were prepared to pay £1M for my numbers one thing that is important is to know how many other people I have sold the numbers to. If I have sold the numbers to 99 other people then the winning prize fund will be divided between 100 people so the £10M jackpot is now only a £100k jackpot. The business case for paying me £1M is not very solid - well at least for you. It would be very solid for me.

So lets review this thought experiment
- Context for the information adds value
- Timeliness of the information adds value
- Exclusivity of the information adds value

So if we were selling information, these are the primary aspects which we have to sell.
Share prices which are late are of less value than the current price
Information about shares which is exclusive is more valuable than public domain knowledge

In sales, we need leads and this might be one area we are prepared to buy other people's services.  If someone was offering us a mailing list of 1 million email addresses, it probably isn't that interesting. We don't know whether these are email addresses which have been made up or much about the people on the other end. We would in essence be buying a spam list so the price for email address that we would be prepared to pay would be very low. Would you pay £1 per address? Nope.

Now if I told you these 1 million people were prospects in the market for what you are selling and they are ready to buy then suddenly £1 per address might seem very attractive.  You might only want to 1,000 of the email addresses so you might pay £1 per address.

If the email addresses were augmented with information such as the name of the person, their status and other information to add validity to the email address you might be willing to pay £10 or more per lead.

Suddenly we've taken something which has a low perceived value and made it more valuable.  Same basic product (email addresses) and increased the price someone is prepared to pay for it.

Friday 24 May 2013

Do you have any single friends?

According to the Internet (so it must be true) 63% of couples met through a mutual friend.
It seems that finding love through friends-of-friends is a very common way to find love.

Why is this so effective?

The answer is trust.   The person doing the referral knows both parties and will have a reasonable view on whether it's a good idea for these people to hook up.  If you know the person is a slime-ball you're probably not going to match them up with someone you like. Trust is inherent in this kind of exchange.

So does the same statistic apply in sales?

Sales referrals are very effective in sales. The same trust model is present. In fact establishing trust is probably the biggest hurdle to winning a sale. So if a mutual acquaintance is prepared to do an introduction, it's a sign that there is trust.

Getting referrals from customers is the same. Asking for the referral after you've closed the deal is not the right time.  It's when your customer is happy and you've delivered on your promise.

The best referrals are where your acquaintance or customer does the introduction directly. Getting a name from someone is nowhere near as effective. Think back to dating.  If someone arranges a blind date it works better than ringing up without any warning and saying "I've been given your number - fancy going on a date?". The stalker alarm bells will be ringing!

If dating is anything to go by, you could be getting 63% of your sales through referrals!

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Do you desire to amaze your babe tonight?

Did the headline work?

I was browsing through emails in my junk folder to see what is needed to grab my attention. One of the challenges of lead generation is grabbing the limited attention of strangers.  I love looking and analysing failure - it's possible to learn from others mistakes.

At least this junk mail headline achieved that goal.  Why? It asked me a question and signalled to a deeper human desire yet I didn't bother opening it - it is afterall spam. 

The approach I use when sending unsolicited emails is to be specific and on-target. That takes time and effort. The recipient knows this isn't some automated message - it clearly is a message that has been hand crafted and personally written by me.

That being said, the subject title can be all that is between my lovingly crafted message and their attention.

In today's information overload world, everyone has attention deficit disorder.  If I make it past the first few words of an unsolicted email, something like "I want...." is enough for me to hit the delete button.  I don't care what you want...."what's in it for me". Why should I bother reading any further.

So what tactics do I use to improve the success rate of people reading my unsolicited emails and even better replying?

Firstly the subject title. I opt for some word which has relevance and meaning to the person - it takes time to research that person but usually the information is out there on the web. If you don't have a keyword, the a cryptic or ambiguous title is something which you can use to arouse curiosity.  Questions can be effective but the challenge here is that questions like "Do you desire to amaze your babe tonight?" can position the message as junk rather than a hand crafted personal message.

Now to the subject body. Again asking a question right at the beginning can be dangerous "Would you like to double your sales ?".  Sure I would love to double my sales yet this position the email  as generic fluff.  If however my email said "I noticed that you attended xyz event - did you get a chance to listen to abc's talk on def ?" is far more specific and relevant for this person - it can't be junk as you're revealing information which is personal to them.

The purpose of an unsolicited email is to establish some kind of dialogue. Don't tell them your life story. I aim to keep the email short - 4-6 lines of text max.  I also aim  to end with a question which they feel they should answer.  I've also experimented with wording where I ask them direct closed question and say "If the answer is no, please delete this email".  It sends a clear message that I have a very clear target and they are not it. I doubt many people get unsolicited emails asking them to delete it so my approach is unusual - I often get a reply saying "we have xyz but not abc" so the tactic is effective at soliciting a response.

I'm always keen to improve my approach so would love to heard what works for you.