Grabbing the attention of customers’ boardrooms – common sense, uncommonly applied

I was researching the value of Cloud Computing. It’s still relatively new in boardroom parlance.

IT Vendors, speak of several issues to sell new technologies and services (such as Cloud Computing) to customer executives.

“How do we get our message across and understood?”
“How do we get our young salespeople to make executive calls confidently?”
“How do we skill them up, or maybe equip them, to do so?”
“How do we motivate young salespeople, who by definition aren’t experts, to call on Marketing Directors, Finance Directors, and so on?

I’ve been working with a global IT supplier. When introducing new advanced (and world-class) technologies, they had a devil of a job to get their value message across, convey trust and inspire across to its customer executives, outside the IT function

Here are the issues they encountered:

1.     Only a small number of salespeople knew how to generate trust, articulate value and inspire action with senior executives in “big clients”

2.     The rest avoided selling the new technology because they didn’t know how to perform Action 1.

3.     If customer executives aren’t even curious about the value you can bring to planning table, you don’t get invited” to dine” there.

Now if we apply all the above principles to the SME market and Indirect Channel Sales, the whole picture gets economically fraught. In this market space people no longer sell on price and brand – and haven’t done so for years. They sell what they know how to sell.

So how do you give anybody the motivation, confidence, competence and curiosity to go sell something that’s new to the customer and new to them as well? How do you maximize cross and up selling opportunities?

Answer: You make it easy for them (and the customer) and apply an Outside-In Selling Approach.

Sounds easy doesn’t it? And so it is. Why, oh why, don’t more sales organisations apply it?

Here lies Rub #1. IT Vendors are very interested (and rightly so) in how their technology works. Customer executives are interested in the value it brings, i.e. what it does, not how it does it. By and large, customers executives are not intrinsically interested in technology.

Thus the successful sales approach requires a shift in mindset, from Inside-Out to Outside-In. For a large organization to take it on, such a shift has to be sponsored from the top. Why?

Rub #2:The traditionalists in product training and marketing will say they can do it for themselves. Well, they can’t. Because it also requires a structured approach to how customer executives want to receive information. “Less is more”. Product enthusiasts want to say more about what they are proud of. Customer executives want less. About 85% less, if I were to guess. So it’s about having a structured approach to find out which 15% of your collateral can be transmuted to inspire customer action.

“A lot of people in our organisation have supreme knowledge about our technology and what it can do for the customer, Paul. The vast majority of them, alas, don’t know how to articulate it to a customer to inspire action.

Inspiration = Knowledge + Articulation (first to self, then to others)”

– Top performing salesperson in UK for a Top 10 Global IT vendor

I leave you with a thought. I’ve checked out quite a bit of IT and IS vendors’ collateral on Cloud Computing and the like. It’s written mainly Inside-Out i.e. feature/benefit. Which means the customer has to be interested in how it works first, to see its value.

Top selling these years is applied outside in.
Shine on…!
Paul C Burr

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