Sales tips for tech--six of them--come to us from PC Retail (UK) online magazine. Reviewing these is worth it to see the state of sales competency in the industry.
I have helped hundreds of tech firms, from web designers to VAR channel partners, and in my experience their sales knowledge has been poor. Their chief reliance is upon product knowledge. We'll see this in the PCR list. But product knowledge is NOT essential for selling--in fact, "I'm not sure; let's go find out together" is one of the most powerful sales tips for tech and any other field you can use. Advanced sales students know about the "Dummy Curve", in which it becomes advantageous to conceal your product knowledge in selling situations. Sales tips for tech such as that one are much more effective.
A Major Change for Prospecting In the Tech Industry
Microsoft and other software giants used to make prospecting calls on behalf of their channel partners. That's right: they did all the heavy cold calling. Suddenly, about four years ago now, they stopped doing that. The prospecting got dumped directly onto the shoulders of the VAR partners...who had been living off easy referrals. The fact is that many partners freaked out. They'd get this huge spreadsheet call list from Microsoft, a frankly terrible product data sheet ("Talk to your customers about achieving their business goals!" oooh how innovative!), and the admonishment to "Get Fired Up!" and make those dials. So they could send the data back to the home planet.
Many people from the channel partners quit and went to do something else. They couldn't handle it.
Not that I blame them. Phone prospecting is a skill and they were not given any training on what to expect for numbers, how to do it, or what would happen on the calls.
Sales Tips for Tech from PC Retail
Now to this article. Put together by an editor, it supposedly tells you "How to land a job, get promoted and improve your technique". I'm all ears.
First, an executive is quoted who says, "It is important to treat customers as if they are buying from your business."
Truly astonishing advice.
As for hiring, this same person says "Being keen" is important. Another hiring manager in the industry is quoted as adding "attitude, personality and work ethic – because you can’t teach that". Fair enough. Commitment and persistence are keys to success.
But nowhere, from neither manager--and these people hire and manage salespeople, mind you--is there any mention of sales skills. Knowledge of a consisent sales process. Think about that.
Six Sales Tips for Tech
A sales director for a European bar code company came up with these. I'll list them one at a time, and follow with my grade and comments.
1. Set yourself personal goals. Write down your yearly and five-yearly personal goals, as well as your work goals.
"B+". Good idea. Without a revenue target, you won't get there. However, this is incomplete. You also need to do the math to figure out what daily activities you need to do so you reach that target.
2. Be the expert. You should be able to explain to the customer about every aspect of the product or service you’re selling – why they should buy it.
"D". Not necessary. Sounds good to start with: product knowledge is the easiest thing for a salesperson to get. But it makes them talk. And talk. And talk. If they're talking, are they listening? We're not in the business of pushing and persuading. Let the prospect put that pressure on themselves. Instead of "Show Up and Throw Up", how about finding out about your prospect's world, and whether your solution is a great fit for them or not?
3. Get to know your customers. Have conversations with them. Take an interest. Don’t use sales techniques to catch the customer out – treat them like a friend.
"C". A lack of understanding of selling is displayed here. Yes, people are on to the lame closes of the 1970s. So you shouldn't be using outdated sales tips for tech to try and fool prospects into buying. But being their friend? Well, you could get into trouble with that, too. What happens when you empathize too much with your prospect? "Oh, it's OK for you to shop around. I would do that in your shoes." "I understand why you would want to think about it for a month." Further, can you really "treat them like a friend" if you are pushing your solution as the one and only? What if what you provide ISN'T the best fit? What if a competing product is actually better for them? Are you acting like a friend then?
Instead, be on their side by looking for the best fit. Is what you provide the most effective solution for their problem? How can you find out as soon as possible?
4. Suggest. In the middle of a conversation, drop in a suggestive question. Ask: “Do you have any stock or asset problems?” Don’t ask: “Have you seen our asset and stock control solutions?”
"B". This will only get you so far. The idea of asking questions about problems your solution fixes is good, especially compared to asking questions about the features of your solution. However, when you run into, "No", what are you going to do then? You're shut down. An "A" answer would be to use Negative Reverse Selling techniques, which allow you to ask the question in such a way that if they respond, "No", you can move on. You won't be shut down or get worn out. That's one of the real sales tips for tech salespeople.
5. Be a threat to your sales director – in the right way. Excel at your job so your director depends on you (and keeps you in mind for any possible future promotions).
"C+". This one isn't very clear. Committing to achieving your numbers, and therefore doing the behaviors necessary to reach them, is very powerful. But what your sales manager does, or should be doing at any rate, is very different from what you do as a salesperson. You shouldn't be "threatening" them at all.
Which brings up another point. If your sales manager is a "selling" sales manager, then they aren't a coach. They don't have the time. It's not really a position. The salespeople are not being helped.
If we're talking about job security here, sure. Being a top performer at your company will help the firm keep its doors open. Nothing is guaranteed, though. You can sell your tail off and there may still be problems that kill the business. I once was a plant manager at a recycling factory, and my shifts beat all kinds of records for processing materials and making the company money. But the leadership of the firm ran out of sources of supply for materials to be sorted. The division had to be shut down; I and my highly motivated employees were out of our jobs.
6. Be friendly. Stand up. Put the phone to your left ear. And smile. Try it…
"C". What the heck is this? "Smile and dial"??
And "Be friendly"? Wow. Is that the sum total of all this sales executive's experience?
And how we do what we do most effectively is our own experience. I do very well on the phone sitting down, thank you very much. I use a headset, and the speaker goes to my right ear (the left one has hearing damage from that recycling plant manager job). Smiling with fake enthusiasm and exclaiming "Hi, how are you today?!" through the phone merely trumpets "Here comes a salesperson".
Overall, these sales tips for tech from PCR show how poorly sales is understood in the technology field. The belief is that smiling a lot, dumping a ton of product knowledge on the prospect, and throwing in a couple of trick ponies in the form of fancy questions will save the day. Room for improvement, don't you agree?
>> Jason Kanigan is a sales force developer who has helped hundreds of managed services firms, software developers and VAR channel partners learn how to prospect and sell effectively. If you found this commentary helpful, please Like, Share or Comment to let others know. Also, you can Subscribe to these daily posts with the big red Follow button or the signup form on the right. Thanks! <<
This post highlights the fact the sales books and techniques are taught by people in management, you know, people who have never sold anything in their lives.