September 16, 2017
Too honest for sales?

It has been remarked on occasion that I am too honest to work in sales.

As a pre-sales product specialist, I would gently correct salespeople who were being a bit “lax” with the facts of what our products could or could not do for the customer.

In one specific case of exuberant honesty, I found myself in a customer meeting presenting to a customer who had one very specific requirement.

They had an existing product from a competitor, they had been first to market with a solution for testing a certain type of network and the customer had been quite happily using this product.

In the intervening years since the purchase of that product, the customer’s usage had changed and there was one tiny part of their requirement that the competitive product did not meet.

I was in the customer’s office and they explained to me exactly what they wanted to do. I very quickly showed them exactly how to do that with our own product then explained how we could easily integrate into their workflow much better than the older product was.

The customer was impressed, we had demonstrated exactly what they needed and they confirmed they would press ahead with an order.

While they discussed the terms of the quotation with our distribution partner I took the time to look through the older product in depth. The customer turned to me and remarked how much he liked the older product but the missing functionality was a great excuse to purchase ours to replace it.

“But you do know it supports that, right?” I asked, “ You just press access this function here, and both products can then be used together” and then demonstrated how to use the functionality on the competitive product. The sales person from the distribution partner looked stunned. In his mind, I had just killed the sale.

From my perspective, it was clear that the customer honestly did not believe that the older product could meet this requirement. But I was confident that they preferred our product to the extent that it would not matter whether or not they knew the older product met their requirement or not. The customer had the budget, the purchase had been approved, we had shown the value of our product and we had been chosen as the solution.

“Even better” was the customer’s reply. They had the budget to purchase one device and we had won that, but by showing them how to use their existing assets to their maximum ability I had just doubled their ability to perform their job. We moved from trying to just sell a product to showing the customer that they had a more effective solution by using both pieces of equipment together.

It is very difficult for a sales team to try and build a solution for a customer. In many cases, the focus is so much on closing a sale for a specific product that no thought is left for cross-selling other products in the portfolio and building a larger proposal that delivers more customer value. Even less if the overall solution might include 3rd party products.

Building a larger solution is a far better way to build a value proposition for the customer, and ensures a longer lock in with the customer which should mean longer repeat business.

We built into Sales Pitch Pro the ability for a sales team to identify synergies across their portfolio of products, identifying where these can be used to address a customers pains more fully than individual products, resulting in an increase in higher value sales and better customer lock-in.

The final part of this story was leaving the customer office, at which point the sales person yelled “what the f@$& are you doing?”. At which point I had to sit them down and explain things.

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