“I hate sales people!” I have heard this expression all to often during my work as a software adviser. And, quite frankly it makes my heart ache every time I hear those words. In this article, I take a look at why the “feel” of the “sell” matters when making your final decision to buy or not to buy from a particular software vendor.
SalesPeople will be more successful when they understand that the point of selling isn’t selling. The point of selling is buying. Jeffrey Lipsius, author of “Selling To The Point”
The Sales Process Matters: Feel It
During my 20 year software career, I have been involved in many roles: software implementer, software engineer, project manager, business process consultant, marketing director, account executive, sales executive and for most of my time a software adviser.
I have a secret to share with you. I believe that sales is truly an honorable profession. I love the sales profession. Today, as a software adviser, I have the opportunity to see first hand how various sales professionals conduct their sales process with potential buyers. Suffice it to say, I appreciate those sales professionals who conduct their business well.
The Point of Selling
What is doing it well? I believe that the fundamental point of selling should be to remove the obstacles in making a buying decision. For me the desire for clients to win is not a euphemism. It is a mental model or frame of reference which I keep in mind as a client and I mutually explore a solution which achieves success. If that sounds corny, so be it.
One thing we’ve discovered with certainty is that anything we do that makes the customer more successful, inevitably results in a financial return for them and us. Jack Welch
In my role as a software adviser, I have worked with literally 100’s of software vendors who provide solutions for nonprofits. And, for the most part, the sales teams that I have worked with have been very professional.
But, I have also met some bad ones too. And, those “bad ones” can cause many “buyers” to hate their sales people. Unfortunately, those “bad ones” have missed the point of selling which I believe is helping customers make better buying decisions. Good sales people are a content concierge providing information buyers need in their journey to make an educated buying decision.
Missing the point in selling may not just be a “sales person” problem. Rather, it could indeed be a tell-tale sign of the software vendors culture and ultimately how the software vendor may solve your problems moving forward too.
That is the key point of consideration here.
Your Software Choice May Be The Easiest Part
Once you’ve made the leap to purchase new software, it’s time to picture this: the excitement in the office the day that the software is first available at your association.
Fade to puzzlement with questions such as the following: How do we convert our data for use in the new system? How do we configure the new system to “talk to” the rest of our software? How do we get the rest of the staff up to speed on using the new system? And significantly, how do we communicate our changes to our customers, members, & donors?
Those are just the starter questions. We all know that any new software brings a related range of new questions about best practices and efficacy.
Once the software vendors have been identified, the RFP sent out, and the demonstrations have all be completed, you have to live with the software you wisely selected. The sales process and the sales professional working with you too, sets the tone and may be a foreshadowing of how your marriage will be once the deal is signed.
Pass or Fail: Testing the Software Vendor
During the software selection, each team member should weigh in not only on the merits of a particular AMS system, but also on the software vendor.
Why does the sales process and person matter? It matters because how you sell is a free sample of how your vendor will be able to solve your priorities. That noted, here are 10 possible questions to test your vendor during the software selection process:
- Approach: Do they seek to understand before being understood?
- Selling or Buying: Do you feel like they are “selling” or facilitating your “buying” decision?
- Crude or Considerate: Is the vendor pushy, abrupt, disrespectful, cavalier, or indifferent? Ex. Looking at a watch to make the next appointment or impatient with all comments and questions. Ultimately, do you believe that they care about your success.
- Brilliant or Ignorant: Does the software sales team know their product well? If you hear something like, “I am just the sales person and don’t know that”. Call the rep an Uber.
- Options: Do they provide options and choice?
- Timely Follow Up: Basic 101 stuff here. But, Is the vendor attentive to details and follow up?
- Fake or Genuine: Is the vendor showing genuine interest in each team member’s reactions and questions, or just the reactions of the team leader?
- Communication: Generally, is each team member comfortable with the vendor’s presentation and the interpersonal exchanges?
- Partner or Punt: Is each team member able to picture a continuing relationship with this vendor if this software system is purchased? Confidence in their value of the overall solution.
- Dirty or Clean: Do you feel like you need to take a shower after a meeting with them? If so, run Forest, run!
Accountability in the Sales Process
Accountability is a simple concept. Can you do what you say you will do and take responsibility for getting it done? This is something we learn from our parents. Well, at least most of us. Regardless of being taught or not, the world makes us accountable for our actions.
This gets more complicated when you look at it from a software purchase decision. It’s easy to understand if a feature is accountable. For example, being able to do a task such as sending an email, running an ad, or posting something to a social media channel.
However, does the software vendor demonstrate accountability when it doesn’t? What is the business impact when features don’t work? And, when a vendor doesn’t care.
Certainly, accountability is likely the hardest to discern in the sales process.
Selling and Feeling the Invisible
Software companies are selling the “invisible”. They are promoting and showing the value of what the solution will provide once it is purchased. On the other hand, an organization evaluating software should be “feeling” the invisible throughout the buying process too.
During your sales selection process, certainly it is important for an organization to review software features and functions. But, finding the best vendor fit may not be found just by reviewing features and functions. Emotions and relationships about the vendor, product, and buying process should be included in your final score card too.
In my opinion, your experience and relationship with the software vendor during the evaluation process is a sample of how your two organizations will perform together when you become married to each other. How the selling process transpires is an example of culture and commitment to helping you too.
If your buying experience isn’t top notch when you are being courted, what are the chances the experience will improve once you have tied the knot with each other? Sales matters.
Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.