We see it happening every every day in the world of technology marketing. It’s the moment that a conversation about a particular product or process moves from conversational to adversarial.
As a blogger, customer, and architect, I have multiple ways that I have to look at technology depending on how I’m going to consume and share information.
I haven’t done traditional sales roles in any of the industries that I have worked in, but I am acutely aware of my surroundings and the people who are in that role. My focus in sharing technology information is on harnessing the passion about something and exciting others to look at that as either a potential solution, or to show how it may not be the appropriate fit.
What’s the Sales Funnel?
A Sales Funnel comes in many forms, but the end result is the tracking of the path from potential prospect down to a closed sale. It ultimately involves the analytics of moving a lead to an opportunity, and ultimately a customer, and shows how the number gets stripped back at each stage.
It’s a little depressing sometimes to look at it this way, but there are statistics behind it all, and that is truly how things generally work in the traditional prospecting model. However, with an adapting customer base who are becoming more involved and educated on product selection, the process should be adapting along with it.
Don’t sell me. Excite me.
Occasionally I refer to myself as technology evangelist. It is just what it sounds like really, and in some way I am contributing to taking someone along the first part of their journey from discovery to adoption. As a technology evangelist, I talk up the product that I am excited about myself which leads to excitement by those who may be listening at the time.
I also have a fairly high bar when it comes to being “sold” on a product. Because I have done extensive product research, I have an expectation to consume more information about your product, and I also need to take away that info to percolate for a little while. If you just hammer me with a sales call and then jump right to “so, when can we cut a P.O. for this?” it will go a little something like this:
Yelling it doesn’t make it true
There are some simple things we have to observe as ways to successfully open eyes and ears about products:
- Engage, don’t force.
- Don’t use FUD, ever. (see http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2014/04/14/fud-it/)
- Be passionate
- Talk up your product and don’t talk down your competitor
- Read the room
- No, seriously, read the room
If you see that you may be losing the attention of the people you are talking to, it may be best to alter your approach. If you find that they are becoming irritated or may not agree with some of what is being said, this too requires you to change your approach, or back off of the situation.
I find it happening too often where a sales person becomes combative or adversarial in their speech when the person they are pitching to isn’t receptive or offers some information that is contrary to what is being sold. Yelling it out, or repeating it exhaustively won’t make the situation change for you in this case. In fact, it will take the situation into a really bad direction usually.
Make being a prospect fun
We have these passionate communities for a variety of technologies. In my opinion, I find that the passion of a community is more likely to make me look more at a product.
It’s kind of like crowd sourcing your prospects because potential customers are likely to speak openly to peers and community members to see their experiences and thoughts on products and processes.
Even one-on-one situations can be affected this way. Try asking the person an engaging question like:
- What do you think about this type of technology?
- Have you read much about this before?
- What do you normally use for research, and have you read anything from <person>?
We as customers want to find solutions. We like fun and interesting technology, but we have a core requirement underneath all of the sexiness of new technology which is to find a relevant solution to a business problem.
Stop telling us that “Everybody I talk to is moving towards this solution”
This is along the lines of the great articles from folks like Greg Ferro (http://etherealmind.com/please-stop-talking-about-google-amazon-infrastructure-its-irrelevant/) which talks to the issue of understanding your customer. Many of the chats I have with sales teams go right to broad generalizations like “Everyone is moving to <thing>” or “CxOs are calling me every day asking about <thing>”.
Every time I hear a pitch start with “Everyone…” it leads to this feeling:
There is a massive middle market which is between the small side of SMB, and the large scale enterprise customers. This consumer base (including me) may land later on the adoption curve, but these folks also can’t be written off.
Note the tagline on my logo: People, Process, Technology. It’s in that order for a reason. Talk to me about how my people will benefit from what you have to offer. Let’s look at real processes that are optimized, and how they are. And remember, when you feel that sale slipping away, it may not be the right time, but it very certainly can’t immediately be chalked up to “bad customer”.
Plus, remember that the person who just sat through an adversarial pitch, or read a series of FUD-filled tweets, may just be a blogger who might spread your message further than you had hoped it to go.
Let’s just make this fun, and you may be surprised by how well that sales funnel fills up 😉