August 01, 2019

Turn Technology Into Sales: Sales

Abe Levine

Abe Levine
CEO/Brainware Partners

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This is the second of two articles.  The first article is about Marketing.

Many companies have developed great technology and associated products.  A year later, they still have relatively little sales to show for it.  This, of course, is very demoralizing and can put the financial position of the company into jeopardy.  The first thing people come to realize is that in general, technology doesn't sell itself.  You need a well-thought-out marketing and sales program to succeed. 

This is just as important as the product itself.  In addition, you should consider support and other operational issues upfront to be ready for when you do become successful.  This area is often ignored, and if success comes quickly, operational aspects are not prepared which could lead to bad product reviews and lack of customer satisfaction.

Having discussed Marketing, let’s discuss Sales itself.

First thing as part of product management is to decide who the customer is.  The answer to that will drive the sales model.  The second question relates to funding.  That alone may drive the sales model.  Some of the models to consider are:

  • Direct Sales, i.e., via salespeople directly calling on customers
  • Inside Sales, i.e., sales are driven by callers, either employees or a contracted call center
  • Channel-based Sales, i.e., resellers, who have customers of their own and are adding this product to their portfolio
  • E-Commerce driven, i.e., sales via the website

If your customers are large companies, the direct sales model is mandatory.  You need to hire people that have sold to these customers and have a Rolodex of companies and people to visit.  The challenge is that sales cycles are usually longer with these companies, customization might be needed, and all the while the sales reps are prospecting, you’re paying them.  If funding is tight or nonexistent, this model would not work unless you find good people willing to work on commission-only and maybe some equity.  In general, people want to get paid while prospecting and thus share the risk with your company.  If a large enterprise really is your target market, you need to find funding, but the payoff is in larger dollar sales.

An inside sales model is good for lead generation and ultimate deal closing.  It can be used for small-medium businesses, and sometimes for larger companies depending on the product.  The upside is that compensation and salaries are less than for direct sales, but this only will work for products with short sales cycles and no customization that can be sold this way.  Many companies engage an overseas call center approach which can handle the lead generation, and even closing business by themselves, or forwarding the lead to a US-based closer.  Use of an overseas call center is a lot cheaper, but you have to be careful that they can be well-trained in the product and speak English without much of an accent.  The Philippines has become popular for call centers in that they have technical skills, work hard, and speak English without an accent.

In general, startup companies should consider a reseller model.  It doesn’t cost very much and gets you to market very quickly.  There is no need for outside sales and potentially high salaries and resellers already have customers, so the sales cycle is generally shorter as a result.  It also helps in terms of competition as resellers have decent account control and are a trusted entity by their customers.  Given that your company probably does not have a significant brand or name recognition, trying to sell the product via direct sales or even via inside sales will be initially difficult.  This is especially true if your marketing program (described in the first paper I wrote) hasn’t fully kicked in.

How do you find these resellers?  One way is to buy market research of companies selling products in your target market, or that are selling products that compliment your product.  Start with an email campaign to them expressing why your product or service is important, and why they should be reselling it.  Follow up with subsequent emails sort of like a newsletter where you highlight a key feature and benefit (see first paper) and other market or relevant news to keep your company’s name and product fresh in their mind.  Subsequent calls won’t be ignored since the prospect has read several emails already.  They know who you are what you sell.

E-Commerce is viable once brand name recognition is in place and that the product makes sense to order this way.  Products that require explanation or some amount of configuration or customization need a sales rep of some sort to sell the product.  E-Commerce is effective where the product is known and human interaction is not generally required.  It could also be used to compliment sales where the prospect agrees to buy and then goes to the E-Commerce site to order it.  It also can be part of the product where besides ordering the product, customers can configure it as well.

In my previous article, I discussed marketing and sales via Features, Advantages, Benefits.  Here’s what I wrote:  Don't just place your great product features out there.  The way to do it is to follow the Solution Sales formula used in actual selling, i,e., Features, Advantages, Benefits.  Features are product or service features you want to highlight.  Advantages answer the "so what" question, that is, what's so great about the feature.  Many companies forget to explain this and assume the reader will see this for themselves.  Don't assume anything.  Benefits are key.  They explain how the customer will benefit in their business from this feature.  Use this approach as well to differentiate your product from the competition.

Call to action:  Contact me via this site (Advisory Cloud).  I'll be pleased to work with you to develop the right marketing and sales programs and website content for maximum effectiveness and sales.

Abe Levine

PS:  My Features, Advantages, Benefits

  • Features:  25 years of executive experience in sales, marketing, professional services, business development, and operations worldwide in multiple industries; COO of two companies
  • Advantages:  I have the experience and successful track record to develop successful programs in all these areas, and do it quickly.  Not that many people have my diversity of experience and knowledge

Benefits:  My advice and work for you will increase sales and brand recognition, define a smooth operation for increased customer satisfaction, and significantly improve your finances

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