Sales teams need to get smart(er)!
The online technology news magazine, www.TechMarketView.com, anticipates a tough time ahead in 2017 for IT service providers and systems integrators. What does this mean for technology services sales people?
‘Providers are going to need to unlock far more intelligence from within their own and customer operations, to seek out additional cost-savings and uncover incremental business opportunities,’ TechMarketView said in a January 2017 feature (‘Market headwinds accelerate need for intelligence’) on predictions for the year.
So if they’re right, how will this alter the way service providers’ sales and business development teams win new clients?
First, it will affect ‘pre-qualification’. And by ‘pre-qualification’ I mean the analysis that all sales teams should - no, must – adopt in assessing whether a business opportunity is worth pursuing.
Normally, in ‘a more subdued market’ there will be fewer new business opportunities, fewer tenders released and perhaps even fewer incumbents having to re-tender, as clients seek to avoid the cost, ‘aggro’ and risk of ‘supplier-change’. So there’s a temptation among supplies to chase any and every one of these fewer opportunities, almost in desperation.
My experience is that this is just the time to ramp up your pre-qualification effort. Fewer opportunities mean more would-be suppliers will be bidding each one. So if the competition is greater, you will need to make sure your ‘fit’ for the opportunity is spot-on.
Maybe your heightened pre-sales rigor will lead to more ‘no bid’ decisions for some of the ITTs and RFPs that land on your desk. Well, better to ‘no bid’ and save on resource time, effort and budget than to plough ahead with an ill-fated campaign. (CSO Insights found that 70% of sales teams don’t fully validate their campaigns – a shocking statistic if true.)
And in ‘a more subdued market’ there could also be more ‘no decisions’ by client organisations: ‘no decision’ really being the client statement that no would-be supplier has differentiated their value, over and above what others can provide. (Interestingly, Accenture recently claimed that 58% of purchase decisions are delayed from one financial quarter to the next and some 75% of ‘deals in the sales pipeline’ never close.)
In reality, a client’s ‘no decision’ is a sure sign that the bidders’ sales teams have failed to do their job. So what will sales teams need to focus on this year?
- Identify stronger ‘reasons to buy’ in your sales proposition to provide genuine evidence to convince clients to spend their cash.
- Be more compelling and provide evidence of quantifiable ‘return on investment’ gains in productivity, financial terms and resource requirement.
- Stop relying on the age-old sales pitch of claiming ‘our technology is unique’ and identify how any technical solution answers a client need. (This will challenge your technology specialists to rethink how they interpret the value of their solution – and importantly, it could be a different value for each client and will need rethinking and re-interpreting for each sales campaign.)
- Double-check any assumptions about the client’s stated need, objectives and business goals throughout the pre-qualification stage. (And know where to look to check those assumptions.)
- Research and understand the customer’s historical buying cycle - and how it now may have changed!
- Importantly, don’t wait for the tender; create the need and establish the relationship much earlier in the sales cycle. (Research by business process consultancy CEB (www.cebglobal.com) found that over half (57%) of buyers’ procurement teams will research the supplier market themselves so they will know as much about you as you do about them!)
- Most importantly, the above point means you’ll need to research, understand and influence decision-makers above the procurement level. So research these people through new channels (eg social media) to find out the ‘blockers’, ‘mobilisers’ and ‘thought-leaders’ within your target client organisations.
With a renewed effort to undertake all the above elements of a sales campaign, TechMarketView’s prediction for 2017 seems about right: the year ahead will see IT service providers needing to be a lot smarter and a lot more proactive in the way they sell.
To discuss how People Achieving can help you pre-qualify future sales campaigns and strengthen your client contact via new avenues, contact Dave Sibley at People Achieving (firstname.lastname@example.org).