Mark Galloway is the President of OppSource. I’ve known Mark for eons going back to when he had executive positions at Lawson Software and Adaytum. The other day Mark and I were comparing notes on how the buying & selling of technology was changing. This is a favorite subject of mine and something that triggers a lot of the speaking, training and consulting work I do. But, this time, I thought I’d be the listener and let Mark do the teaching.
So, without further ado, here is the Q&A session between Mark and I:
BSS: I think today's technology buyer is more informed (pre-sale) than ever. Do you agree? How should sellers approach a more knowledgeable buyer?
MG: Absolutely. Throughout my career in ERP sales and marketing, I’ve always been taught and believed that if you are responding to sales opportunities where the need is already defined (e.g. RFP issued), you are entering into a potential deal way too late. When a buyer already knows what they need, it usually means that another expert (A.K.A. your competitor) has already gotten a chance to set the table around the issues their solution is most capable of solving. Getting to prospects earlier involves breaking into their circle of trust. Doing that requires sales people to go ‘BIG’ by changing their public prospecting persona from “Account Executive” to that of “Business Issue Guru”.
BSS: The recent issue of Harvard Business Review had an article announcing the end of solution selling. The authors suggest a different kind of sales person is needed to re-frame the sale (i.e., the Challenger). Are you seeing this, too?
MG: Absolutely. Nobody wants to be “sold” anything, even if it is disguised as a “20 questions – discovery session.” Rather our consumer behaviors are leaking over into our daily business lives. We want to have a discussion around issues that are important to us where we might get to ask the “sales person” 20 questions about how they have helped others solve the issue we are most concerned about. The best sales people are able to take these “moments of interest” and insert their fresh thinking into the prospect’s mind by planting ideas that are relevant to the prospect’s areas of interest, not the salesperson’s desire to retire their revenue quota.
BSS: So what's wrong with selling tech the old fashioned way - functions and features? Isn't that still a viable mechanism?
MG: Certainly it is, but presenting features and functions has to be timed later in the discussion. As mentioned earlier, the presentation of your solution has to come downstream after having positioned yourself and your firm as experts on the issue your prospect has engaged with you on. This requires the sales professional to move away from the old “sit back and let me show you how our…” – to timing the presentation of your solution with more of a “here is how we’ve seen other firms use our solution to address the challenge you have described…”
BSS: The worst sales spot is to be in the finals and lose the deal. The second best spot to be in (besides winning the deal) is to be the first player to walk away from the opportunity. How do smart sellers know when to step back from a prospect?
MG: As I mentioned earlier, we are always leery of deals where the first interaction with a prospect involves a discussion around participating in their RFI/RFP process. To define requirements, prospects have typically put a great deal of thought and research into the problem they want to solve. If receipt of an RFP isn’t also accompanied with a number of previous “informational/educational” engagements with that prospect, it’s probably already a “wired deal” for somebody else.
BSS: Is relationship selling still relevant? What matters most in moving a prospect all the way through to signing on the dotted line?
MG: There is no question that relationships still matter – especially in higher-value transactions where the customer is making a longer-term commitment. However, what is important in a relationship these days I believe has changed. Customers today are not looking to be “smoozed.” Instead they look favorably on sales people who help them by bringing value with every interaction. Sales professionals that invest their thinking for the betterment of their prospects or customers are viewed as valuable relationships. We advocate taking a “customer’s customer” orientation – thinking about how they can impact and improve the value chain all the way through to the ultimate end customer. Salespeople who are asked by their prospects and customers “what do you think we should do?” have broken into the “circle of trust” and are clearly the most successful in progressing deals to the dotted line today.
BSS: What are the top 3 activities or behaviors that absolutely have to change when it comes to selling to businesses today?
- Focusing on “hot leads” is the number one mind shift change that today’s sales professionals need to change. Waiting to engage with prospects who have already defined a project, have established a budget, and know what their requirements are means you are late to the party.
- Smoozing still matters, but it has to be delivered differently. Be prepared to bring value to your prospect with every interaction. Think about their job and what they are challenged with and constantly be looking for information, insights, and ideas that can help them.
- It takes a committee to make a decision today. Organizations are more collaborative and inclusive than ever before. Sales professionals have to share their love with a lot more people in an account in order to win business. That means sales professionals need to enlist the help of marketing and in some cases senior management team members to help them with the coverage in an account.
Please see Part II