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 technologist, 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 trying 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.
Here are some questions to ask to determine whether of not you or your organization falls in to 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?