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Feature: Getting to know you

Feature: Getting to know you

Learning all about a customer’s business is key if you’re going to sell solutions in the current economic climate.

The scenario: You know that 200-seat company down the road needs help with its IT infrastructure – you’ve been eyeing them off for a while and waiting for an opportunity. So you take a gamble and get a meeting with an employee in its IT department. He is a friend of a friend you’ve met before, so you feel comfortable talking to him.

You also know your competitor, who has pretty much the same offering as you, is having a similar meeting next week. You don’t know with who, but you got in there first so you are happy. You’re a bit nervous because it’s a completely new vertical, but, hey, a customer is a customer and you are ready to conquer the whole market so why not start now?

Armed to the teeth with technical information about how good the offerings in your solution are, you go in and give a well-rehearsed presentation highlighting technical prowess and the knowledge of your team. The message: Your products are as good as anybody’s, you are willing to promise to do pretty much anything, and your team is top notch too, so the company should sign on the dotted line.

Satisfied, you await the call from the IT department rep confirming your expectations the company will buy boxes from you. It never comes. Why? The wrong person, the wrong conversation, and the wrong focus.

The first mis-step taken in the generic, but not altogether unrealistic example above, was talking to the wrong person. Approaching a representative of the IT department, or even the IT manager, is starting off too low in the food chain. In an economic climate where companies are delaying spend and watching costs closely, any new IT initiative is going to need the buy-in of the CIO or general manager for it to get off the ground.

“If it is a small reseller, they should be talking to GMs and directors,” CEO of sales training organisation Salient Communication, Elliot Epstein, said. “But they end up primarily talking to an IT manager and going through an extended sales cycle – a straightforward solution sale ends up taking nine months when it shouldn’t have if they’d went to the right level early.”

But even if this is realised and the reseller goes to the right people, they need to have the right conversation. According to research firm, IDC, the biggest mistake companies make when talking to CIOs is not knowing the target company’s business well enough. They should be spending 75 per cent of the initial contact period listening and asking questions, not pitching.

Our hapless reseller spent all his time focusing on the technologies, promising the world, and highlighting his team’s skills. In short, he took the ‘here is what I want to sell you’ route.


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