[author: Jackson Liu]
The first thing I was ever taught as a salesperson is to recognize what the customer ‘needs.’ If it isn’t recognizable at first, make damn sure you get to it before you even start pitching your product.
To identify the need, it makes sense to start with the motive.
There is a great everyday example of this – cafes in CBDs (for the non-Australian readers, CBD is not short for ingredient found in a certain herb, it’s an abbreviation for Central Business District). These cafes are only open during office hours and serve a specific need for office workers’ breakfast, coffees and lunches.
By all accounts, it’s a great business model (albeit, pre-COVID).
What do technology customers want?
Functionality: There’s no escaping this one! Customers will always need the product to function the way you say it will in order to solve a specific problem. Pride in what your product delivers should not get in the way of understanding factors driving your customer’s decision-making.
Price: You need to be clear about the entry point – customers will always have a budget. You need to understand what the budget is and how it’s intended to be spent. Perhaps there’s a ‘Pilot Budget,’ enough to run a proof of concept but not quite enough for a full implementation. As a technology vendor you may have to be content with that in order to get a foot in the door – so long as both sides understand the pathway to success.
Compatibility: Is your product or service compatible with technology and processes that the customer has already implemented, or is planning to? No customer wants to purchase a technology that doesn’t align with business and operational strategy. It must make sense to the business – whether it’s technical or strategic!
Transparency: Customers respect transparency and openness during and post a sales process. This allows them to feel in control at each stage of the sales interaction. Be open about how your Service Levels work, the amount of support afforded, price increases etc. Customers respect transparency about what works now and where the product is going.
Validation: Perhaps the biggest motivator of all. To me, this falls in two buckets:
- Market validation: The customer needs to understand who among their peers and rivals is using the product: other white-shoe firms? Other Fortune 500 companies? There is no better promotion than an existing customer validating the product and company to the market themselves.
- Personal validation: Along with control, the customer also requires personal reinforcement in every stage of the sales process. From interacting with your sales team to what they see in the market (online, articles, conferences) with respect to your brand and messaging, every point of exposure to your product or company must reinforce that their need can be satisfied with your product. Consistent thought leadership content and marketing campaigns are one way to ensure regular indirect validation is being sent to your customers.
Offer Consistent messaging: The worst thing a company can do is offer inconsistent messaging, whether in marketing materials, conversations with external stakeholders or relying on people in the industry relaying on to others what they think they heard. Consistent messaging around the product should be accompanied by the same around the company brand, values, mission and service.
Provide a pathway post-sale: Every organization should have a post-sales roadmap – a clear pathway to success – tailored for every customer. The roadmap should clearly define the customer experience journey and what success means to both the vendor and customer. The best roadmaps outline specific milestones for set periods of time post sales – 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months down the line.
Remember, the true sales journey starts when the contract is signed!