Thursday, June 09, 2005

Sales Ideas

The company that I work for is looking for a newer approach to some of our business practices. Mostly they are interested in process flow and better ways to accomplish accounting tasks with more efficiency. As with most large companies whenever they venture off into a large project there is always a period of due diligence, in which the company tries to determine what it is they want, and whether it would be more effective to build the solution in house or buy it.

Tuesday, I had the opportunity to sit in a conference room with a team of employees and executives to listen to a demo and sales pitch from a third party vendor. I came out of the two hour meeting less than sold on their product, and I will try to explain why in the coming few minutes.

Aside: I’m not a salesman. I’m not a even a developer yet either. So it is possible that my opinion with regard to a salesman’s pitch may not be valid. If that is how you feel, you are welcome to click stop and call it good. If not, then you are welcome to keep reading.

It seems to me that any salesman would do well to do his homework about the company that he is trying to sell to. There are a lot of ways that this could take place.

If the company you are selling to has a website, it would probably be worthwhile to visit and learn what they do and how they do it. Before you set up the time to come and deliver a demo and sales pitch, you probably would have had some contact with someone inside the company. It would be wise to talk to that person, develop at least a minimal friendship and learn what the company’s specific needs are. If possible, you should find out the volume of business that the company does, and try to figure out specifically what their current processes are— at least so that you have some idea of who you are selling to.

Understanding what the customer knows about your product would also be of value to you. Finding out where they learned about your company, if they have already attended some of your web-seminars, or even if they have visited your website are all questions that you could easily ask, would certainly give you an edge when you first met face to face.

Having done your homework, it would make your sales pitch much more confidant and secure. How can you know how your solution will help a company if you don’t know about the way that they currently do things? It seems to me that going into a sales pitch cold and without background information is a poor plan.

When showing up for your presentation, it is key that you be on time, dressed appropriately for the audience, that you have all of the equipment that you need, and that you have arranged for anything that you could not bring yourself. For example: if your presentation counts on having access to the internet, it would be wise to make sure that your contact with the company knows that you will be needing an internet connection when you come to present. That will give your host the ability to arrange those things for you.

Make sure that you understand what you are selling to the best of your knowledge, and know what types of people you are presenting to. Obviously, your sales pitch should be different depending on who is sitting in the room. You need to understand the differences between the way an IT professional will see something and the way an accountant might. Regardless of who is in your audience, you should be able to find the happy medium to explain the product to the liking of your audience.

When preparing your demo, it is important that you have a set of examples covering a wide range of questions worked up ahead of time. When looking to purchase a new software package, people not only will want to hear how great your product is, they will want to see it in action. You need to be able to give a high level overview, but also be ready to delve into the details if need be. It is important that you know your product well enough to be able to answer the questions that may be asked of you.

Most importantly, be sure that anything you demo works. The last thing a potential client wants to see is the salesman stumbling around over equipment, futzing with configurations, and sweating because for some reason the demo that he had planned to give isn’t working.

Sales/Demo meetings are expensive. Not just form the point of view of the company doing the selling. There is an incurred cost to send your salesman out to go make a pitch, but there is also a cost of bringing executives and employees into a meeting. You as the salesman should recognize that this meeting is costing people’s valuable time. You should respect the timetable that you created when you set up the meeting. It would be terribly inconsiderate to waste 15 minutes of your sales meeting trying to figure out how to get your demo to run.

I know that the opinions expressed above may seem harsh, but to some extent isn’t a sales pitch a lot like a job interview? It is imperative that you put your best foot forward, and show to your potential client why your solution is the best solution for the job. The above commentary doesn’t even touch on the actual product demo, it just discusses the actions of the salesman, and yet, because the salesman was so disorganized, the software that he was presenting didn’t look as sweet.

A volume could be said about the actual software as well, but it may be better to save that for another day.

Here’s the bottom line. Understand who you are selling to. Be able to sell yourself, your company, and your product.

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