I've seen many organizations spend countless man-hours and dollars making certain everyone on their sales team fully understands their company's product and service offerings.
"Product specialists" with a significant depth of knowledge on certain technologies/feature sets/functions have become the norm for many companies trying to find ways to differentiate their approach and provide additional value to their prospects and customers.
When queried, these masters can quote chapter and verse from product and service manuals inches thick. Unfortunately, we are molding these folks to be better technologists, not better business people.
What's the Problem?
Reps that are trained to be "technologists" have a tendency to approach their customers with boatloads of technology and try to determine whether or not any of it is seen as beneficial by the customer.
It is as if they are a solution in search of a problem. Sometimes they get lucky, most times not. Once again, these reps can be walking/talking product manuals, but if asked, most couldn't tell you their customer's business vision, goals, plans, processes, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
What's Causing This?
In many, if not most situations, THE ONLY true differentiator of products and services will be the amount of measurable impact they have on what customers are trying to accomplish as a business. If we don't know their vision, goals, plans, etc., we end up being just another vendor peddling the same basic products and services as others.
As a result, customers can perceive there are little, if any, significant differences in your offering. In those cases, if they make a decision to buy, price becomes the determining factor. Sales organizations having BUSINESS conversations and understanding how their customers measure success BEFORE talking products and services become the better partner.
These reps are able to provide significant strategic value by demonstrating measurable impact on things like their customer's productivity and efficiency, image, expenses, revenue, safety, security and stability.
Have You Fallen into This Trap?Here are some questions to ask to determine whether or not you or your organization falls into the "Technologist" category:
- Does your sales process provide a foundation for your sales people to understand the customer's business first?
- Are you or your Sales People talking to a broad spectrum of people in your customer's business outside of IT and/or purchasing?
- Do you or your Sales People know the vision, goals, plans, processes, strengths, weaknesses, etc. of your customers OUTSIDE the realm of your company's products and services?
- Are you or your sales people regularly invited to your customer's business to discuss their driving business issues as a strategic partner BEFORE there is an obvious need for what you sell?
If you ensure your sales team knows prospects' and customers' businesses as well as your own, they'll be more likely to have relevant sales conversations, be seen as trusted advisors, and close more deals.
Bob Nicols has 34 years of experience in sales, sales management, executive management and sales force development. He founded Burton Training Group, now AXIOM Sales Force Development, in 1990 after being a top and highly recognized performer in sales, sales management and executive positions within the technology sector. He has managed and mentored thousands of sales people, sales managers and senior managers and been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. For more than 21 years he has developed and delivered sales programs that have become the standard for many Fortune 100 companies including AT&T, BellSouth, Disney Enterprises, Alltel, Verizon and ESPN. AXIOM programs have been implemented in over 30 countries including Japan, the UK, Germany, Dubai, Brazil, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Slovakia, Sweden, and The Netherlands. Bob's highly energetic and insightful lectures and workshops have resulted in invitations to be a featured presenter at dozens of national and international sales meetings and conferences. He is a trusted advisor to the presidents and senior managers of multiple organizations, both large and small and has been a board member of a national technology company. Bob is the developer of AXIOM's “Selling Sciences ProgramTM” and co-author of the “Selling Sciences” CD series.