"It is easier to train for content than collaboration." - David Nadler, Chairman Delta Consulting
Read a few of the best books on the topic. My favorite is You Can't Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar, by David Sandler
SPIN Selling is another.
2. Have you ever attended sales training? If not, I recommend that you consider it. I offer such a program - but you can find a lot of them out there. Mine is at: http://www.hightechguru.com/sandler_sales_programs.shtml
Categories: Sales and Distribution
I would like to hear members experiences with successful software sales (enterprise/corporate) in how they were able to overcome resistance from prospects wanting references/installs before they buy. Any creative ideas is very much appreciated.
"It is easier to train for content than collaboration." - David Nadler, Chairman Delta Consulting
At some point in the enterprise level selling/buying process there will likely be more than one department manager and a variety of personal experiences co-mingled with politics that will overcome all of the books you have read to prepare yourself.
Sometimes you just have to take a serious look at the choices from their perspective and realize that this is not necessarily the best fit, or if it is, you just haven't gathered enough reinforcing quotes, references, industry analysts reviews and all the other bits'n pieces that some pragmatic decision makers require before they can put a check by your name. In a surprising number of these instances they may also have read the same books and be prepared for the 'no references' gambits.
Sometimes you just have to go out and buy yourself some flagship accounts. The cost of giving away product and services is surprisingly less in most cases than you would expect, even less than some marketing activities that may not deliver (because you're not referenceable yet :) ), and it takes you over the reference hump to begin building from there.
I can remember more that one occasion when we've won the business (greatly reduced price) telling the prospect that we are new and willing to do what it takes to win their business and earn their future references based on 100% satisfaction.
Something to consider as you're building your customer base and eliminating as many obstacles to sales as you can.
Ken Beam, The VAR-City -- "Channel Start-Up Specialists since 1995" Phone: 972.240.8793 or email@example.com
Whatever process you are using is designed perfectly to create just the result your are getting now. We have to identify the failure mechanism.
Let's try this. Any state of the art selling process would ask you to do what we call an Ultimate Contract. Miller-Heiman's equivilent would be a socialized Blue Sheet. Solution Selling would call it a Plan Letter. In all cases it is a recap of all of the key agreements reached with the customer, in writing, that the customer has seen and agreed to. It will include:
1. The business problem to be solved, it's impact and any related cost
2. The customer's idea of a solution and how it maps to your solution
3. The agreement you reached about money
4. All the steps of the due diligence process that you both agreed to - what's going to happen, who's involved on both sides, and when it's going to happen
Have you done that on these deals?
If so, review of the doc's will help reveal the weakness in the process.
Whatever process you are using is designed perfectly to create just the result your are getting now.What a GREAT insight, Steve!
No one wants to take all the risk┬? If your product does not work or your support is bad┬? if anything goes wrong and usually in the first few projects there are many things that go wrong the decision maker takes the blame and is responsible for the outcome.
When you have ┬?personal accountability┬? against ┬?company gain┬? you will lose. You need to reduce the risk for the decision maker.
You don┬?t have to make it free but you can set a list of milestones and acceptance tests that if not passed they will not pay for them with a point system on the implementation success that bellow a certain number will be treated as a cost only beta site and not a full deployment┬?
Roy Daya, CEO
DigitalClay is a smart application engine for building dynamic software solutions without coding.
Every software company, every software product licensed serial number one to someone.
This is why the good marketing and good sales people get the big bucks -- they know how to get past these objections. With the right sales process, the "new" objection will never come up.
That said, I would never develop a software product without customer number one -- and even better, numbers two and three -- already in hand. I know nothing about your product or your market but I worry you have a solution in search of a problem. People buy software to solve compelling problems. If the problem is compelling enough, it will overcome "new." If the problem is not compelling enough, they won't buy, not even from Microsoft or IBM.
Don't forget that the reason a prospect gives for not buying your product is often not the real reason. They give a reason that is some combination of (1) designed not to hurt your feelings and/or (2) designed to end the conversation. For example, "it lacks the widget feature" does not do (2) because you might say "we'll add the widget feature." Ditto for "too expensive." "Too new" is a perfect objection in that regard: can't be "solved" and doesn't hurt your feelings the way "we have no use for your product" (for example) would. You might want to put some serious effort into finding out if "too new" is the REAL reason. There are books and articles out there on lost sales post-mortem processes.
We were in a similar position a few years ago; we believed we had a killer app (in our niche space) but had to get the elusive first customer on the books.
Ultimately you have several ways to go/things to consider;
1) Sell REALLY hard (doesn't mean aggressively by the way), cover all the interested parties and you will find any sticking point/person. Deal with the objection - if your product really is going to make a difference then simply being "new" is not a valid objection. Identify who, (aside of purchasing who rarely have as much clout as-is attributed to them) if anyone is definitely anti your product and deal with them positively.
2) Consider TOTAL flexibility on your terms; as a start-up it's sometimes better to have a percentage of the dollars sale price of a success (where x is probably less than 100%!) than 100% of a failure - what's it worth to you to have 1 installed customer in terms of referencability? Make sure that if you decide to "buy" your first customer that as part of the deal you offer them you get them as a reference in the future. Love them to death once they're installed.
3) Consider offering time-limited evaluation. If your product is good, you'll find that they won't want to uninstall the product once it's in.
4) Consider selling them what they want to buy. Just because we think we know how a product ought to be licensed doesn't mean that's how the customer wants to buy. Make it easy and attractive for them. Think of per seat, per copy, per site, perpetual, annual, buy x get y at a discount.
5) Long sales cycles are good and bad - takes longer to close and get the revenue but often the bigger players don't have the attention span. We've had sales cycles from 3 days to 7 years -we always get our customer if they're interested.
6) Think outside the box - in the current climate, have you thought about renting or leasing the software to a customer. What about "pay for performance/results". One of our best sales was on the basis of "no benefit - no charge" of course you must ensure you control the key ground-rules.
7) Validate your price-point(s) - if the product was for sale for $1 most of your potential market would buy it (if its a valid valuable product), if it was priced at $10M no one will ever buy it. Somewhere there's a mutually acceptable price-point that should allow you to sustain and grow your business.
At the end of the day you've got to know your market, and be sure you have a valid product offering. Then be creative, determined and flexible and you'll get that first customer. The first one is always the hardest, but usually worth it.
About 5 years ago we realized a problem existed with no known solution and set out to be the first to create one. We were somewhat lucky in that we had one customer who continued to tell us it was a problem they wanted to resolve. However, even with them already a customer there was great adversion to getting them to commit financial resources to build them a solution. We created an "early adopter program" whereby those first few customers who had something of alue to bring to our development cycle (product feedback as well as money), would in turn get life time updates for free. Probably a crazy thing to do but we really wanted to build this product and knew the market was there. We have 3 early adopters and a spring board that allowed us to more then double our customer base since the poduct's inception.
There were of course some things I wish we did different. We were pinned with a very low purchase price which crimped resources, looking back I would have been more agressive changing this. I also think the idea of there being a loose "partnership" in our little endeavor could have been more thoroughly spelled out in terms of risk. You would like to think any comopany with the number of years in business as these would have recognized the path they were setting out on. However, we've been surprised at how demanding they have become without the understanding of our lack of resources. In short, they expect from us the production volume only available with additional resources but disregard the need for financial support for said resources. Along those same lines we know they stres about our new client growth cutting in to their needs.
Anyway, it certainly ot us our jump start and I would more then likely do it again with more attention given to those items I outlined. They were helpful as good referals that allowd us to land those newer customers. Ultimately that was what we were "buying" by giving them the updates for free.