Every opportunity in front of a client is a sales opportunity. Even if your team wants to be left alone with code and implementation strategies, every person inside of a company is in sales. You may not be closing deals, but once you have the client, convincing them to stay or invest more heavily in your company’s solutions in an ever-growing, competitive landscape, is just as important. This guide will help you think about and apply new approaches and techniques.
Tips and checklists are provided as job aides to help you immediately implement what you have learned.
Modern Age Skills Required for Success
Buyers and the influencers people sell to have changed over the last few years. Solutions are deployed differently as well, for example, through cloud. Sales is no longer just about making deals. It’s not about a single point-in-time. It’s not a transaction. It is about interactions
and a cycle that continues. A cycle that begins from acquiring your customer, to keeping your customer and then continuing to sell to your customer. All members of the team, including sales and technical teams, are an integral part for success.
As your customers’ budgets and lines of business continue to increase, sales and technical teams will require additional skills to be effective. More than 50% of the average budget involves business decisions, solution selections, purchasing and technology deployment, often using cloud services companies. The soft skills needed for success in technical roles are becoming more important than ever, as are the amount of soft skills required. Companies that help their employees learn and apply these skills are often the most successful. The overall value technical people can offer becomes the differentiator to a win or a loss. Tech teams applying these skills can greatly contribute to acquiring new customers, retaining customers and continuing to sell and upsell to customers.
Learning how to speak the customer’s business language, in addition to increasing technical skills, will be an essential mix for technical teams. Customers today are interested in outcomes.
You might hear them say, “Don’t tell me about the technology, tell me what it can do for my
business.” Articulate the value you, your company and your solutions will bring them. How will you help them be more competitive in their industry, expand into new industries, save time or spend less money for the same or better outcome?
Answers to these questions will increase the trust a customer has in you and your company, not
just as a technology provider but potentially as a business partner.
Think beyond simply communicating value to creating it for your prospect. What you do and say helps prove the value you and your company provide with the customer’s needs in mind.
People and businesses work together best through collaboration and building trust. With that in mind, long-term relationships can be built. Continue to build your skills and excel as part of the entire team and on behalf of your customer. The following skills and techniques are key to prospect interaction – pre-sales, closure, and post-sales. It’s all about how you develop relationships and work with others, collaboratively.
Defining the Role of Seller
Today, selling is working collaboratively with the customer. Buyers have options. They can go online and find almost 90% of what they need to know about you, your products, company and competitors. Millennials want decisions and actions fast, combined with SaaS and cloud solutions, cycles are shortened from months and weeks to days and hours – click and buy. So, what’s the differentiator? The differentiator is you. Do you care for your prospects and customers? Do you listen to them? Can you work with them to make them successful, which in turn will make you successful? If so, you are in sales. And you are probably a good seller! You can be a great seller in the context of your role.
Regardless of your role on the technical team, you have an advantage. Often, the customer places more credibility in what you do and say because you are not the sales representative / account manager, with a rehearsed pitch and quota to
fill. As part of a non-sales function, your input provides major impact. It’s rare for customers to expect technical teams to upsell, so when they do recommend products or additional services, it can be received as more genuine than a standard sales pitch. Anyone on the technical team can improve their skills and be more proactive. Below are questions to determine your readiness to sell. You might be surprised by the outcome.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are already selling yourself, your ideas and your company.
When you and your technical team listen to a customer in various contexts, you’ll uncover issues and problems your customer struggles with. You will be in a better position to align and offer the proper mix of products and services your company provides. Your guidance will lead to customer solutions. You will not only be solving problems for your customers but will also gain insights necessary to improve ideas, products and services for your company.
Technical Role in Sales Process Interacting With End Customer Buyers and Influencers
Of all the changes that have taken place in the channel over the past ten years, one of the most significant transitions did not directly involve technology or business models. It started with the
“consumerization of IT” with mobile devices and apps, and continues to expand rapidly with innovations such as the Cloud, IoT (the Internet of Things) and Big Data. The new IT decision makers are everywhere in an organization and new roles have begun to appear.
Below are some of the most popular key roles tech teams play in the sales process when interacting with end customer buyers and influencers.
Sales Engineer (SE) – Works side by side with sellers to establish credibility of product or service as the solution that supports the business challenge. May demo or run a proof-of-concept, describe possible solutions by whiteboarding, network diagram and by interacting with the customer’s technical personnel. Tech teams complement sales teams.
Services and Delivery Teams – Help the customer understand how the solution will be deployed, processes and procedures used, systems used, including those deployed after the sale. Instill confidence with the customer decision maker so they are comfortable with what they get and the teams they will work with.
Customer Service – Often first team called when a post-sales problem occurs, or the customer has questions about what the product or service they bought. The buyer will need confidence that your company is quick to respond and resolve problems. This team may also provide input during the sales process about what processes, procedures and tools are used to provide the rigor needed for the best service. What are your service level agreements? Do you consistently reach them? What if you don’t?
After the sale, the Sales Engineer (SE) typically takes a lesser role, and the Services and Delivery teams begin deployment, rollout and installation, having key roles. Once the solution is deployed, Customer Service assumes a key role for post-sale support, issue handling, and day-to-day work.
In the initial stages of the sales process, the involvement of the tech team is similar to that of customer decision maker. If the end customer is the “user,” training, adoption and change management become a big part of the Services and Delivery teams. Customer Service will typically take calls from users for the day-to-day support and issue handling.
Technical Role in Sales Process
Interacting as a Business Partner
Below are some of the most popular key roles tech teams play in the sales process when interacting as a business partner.
Sales Engineer – May receive training from the vendor to adequately represent their offerings. Often a managed service provider will be required to have staff with various vendor certifications
so your company is eligible for vendor support, programs and market development funds.
Services and Delivery Teams – In some cases, vendors will have delivery teams, but generally tech teams will be responsible for the total solution that comprises both you and the vendor company’s offerings and other vendors’ products.
Customer Service – Interact with the customer and vendor. Often provides the initial triage and support and calls upon vendor assistance for high-level escalations when vendor offerings are involved.
Technical Role in Sales Process
Interacting as an Industry Influencer or Consultant
Below are some of the most popular key roles tech teams play in the sales process when interacting as an industry influencer or consultant.
Sales Engineer – Often the industry influencer or consultant creates the customer request for proposal (RFP) that your company responds to and there is little opportunity for tech teams to influence that. You may have initial
discussions with a seller and industry influencer or consultant, so they will recommend you once they understand customer needs. They may be coordinating or project managing a business process project broader in scope than that of the offerings you provide. Corporate financial, customer relationship management and other business applications may be implemented that you are not directly responsible for.
Services and Delivery Teams – The offerings of managed services providers vary in scope, with services and delivery teams providing added value for initial and ongoing value and revenue. Articulating your differentiators to an industry influencer or consultant can make the difference between a win or a loss, if you are given that opportunity.
Customer Service – Just like your services and delivery team counterparts, the industry influencer or consultant will want to know
how your company differs in customer service. What type of processes you use, service level agreements and attainment to endorse your company in a sales situation. The consultant will try to do an “apples to apples” comparison of company capabilities.
Critical Skills Required
For a Technical Sales Influencer
Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. Each role on the tech team requires unique technical and role-specific skills, but that is no longer enough. The following are specific soft skill techniques, approaches, tips and checklists
These approaches lead to effective questioning, better understanding and true dialogue.
Effective questioning ideally starts by considering three fundamental goals for yourself:
An attitude of inquiry – desire to find and uncover things.
A desire to understand – think it through, what’s the real meaning?
A genuine wish to help people – people appreciate being helped.
With multiple roles involved in sales, solid listening skills start with thinking about the objective or point-of-view of the specific person you are communicating with. Understand their experiences, interests and goals. Job titles
are not always fully descriptive of roles and responsibilities. Depending on the size of a company, people may perform many functions or “wear many hats” so you need to think broadly about their roles, responsibilities, objectives
Ten Steps for Active Listening
Let people tell their story
Offer verbal feedback
Listen selectively, read between the lines
Pay attention to your body language
Be aware of personal space
Care about your prospect
It isn’t uncommon when confronted with an objection to respond in a way that is not
productive or defensive. Instead, think about objection as an opportunity to gain insight into what the other person is thinking, to better understand and to come to an agreement, or better, a resolution that addresses and solves what seems to be an objection. Sellers have found the following model simple and effective. It is known as APAC.
A – Acknowledge. “I see”, summarize, create empathy.
P – Probe. Ask questions and dig deeper into what the customer needs.
A – Answer. Answer their objection.
C – Confirm. Confirm you have adequately addressed the objection.
Best Practices for Enabling Sales Support Success
Effective Planning For Any Customer Discussion
Buyers are busy and don’t want their time wasted. Before meeting with a customer, plan. Even a simple plan to set expectations for work to be done and keep things on track. This technique is broadly
applicable in various situations, over the phone, in person, or planning for more formal sales calls. Set the tone and agenda if you want to maintain control over the process, and use your time effectively. Prepare the RAP ahead of time, and get the okay to move ahead in the meeting.
Here are the three simple steps.
R – Reason – State the reason for the meeting.
A – Agenda – Document what you want to discuss and demonstrate capability.
P – Payoff – Is the customer happy? Then decide next steps.
Be collaborative in your business engagement.
This may apply broadly to your business as a managed service provider and to working
collaboratively with prospects, customers and vendors. Use the company tools, systems and processes that have been put into place to ensure the right information is captured and available to the right people at the right time. Have an overall goal of being collaborative and building trust. This will keep you on track as you get into specific or difficult interactions. Be inquisitive and strive to understand.
TIPS FOR COLLABORATIVE CUSTOMER INTERACTIONS
White boarding is an effective way to illustrate solutions in an interactive way.
Use dialogue instead of a monologue. Ask questions and listen, don’t do all the talking.
Use clear and positive language. It enables you to deliver customer satisfaction.
Adjust your language to your audience and use language to build confidence with customers.
Listen for the most important points and restate them.
How people buy is changing at a rapid rate and that means everyone in a company must sell and sell continuously. Many of the “business-as-usual” activities in IT are rich opportunities to enhance customer experiences and build long-term relationships. This is how collaboration and trust is built for real relationships. As the expectations continue to evolve within technology, the crossover and responsibility of sales will affect entire organizations, including technical teams. See this as an opportunity to expand and enhance
your skills related to products, creative solutions, customer retention and more. The demand is high for employees that bring a combination of solid technical and sales skills. Having both, will differentiate you considerably.
Customer Etiquette Checklist
Guard your company’s intellectual property.
Keep customer data confidential.
Don’t bash the competition. They may ultimately become your ally.
Don’t break confidences you have with colleagues and others. If something is said to you in confidence, keep it that way.
Be careful of finger-pointing and criticizing when something goes wrong. Don’t expose negative aspects of your team to your customer.
Treat every customer with respect, even if they are not treating you that way. Be sympathetic.
Be careful of what is called triangulation – speak directly to the person about something versus through a third person if possible. Try to stay objective and stick to the facts.
Don’t say things such as, “this happens all the time, it’s the third time today!” This breaks the confidence your customer has in your product.
If a customer is irate, do not tell the customer how they are acting. Set an example by remaining calm and professional.
If you don’t know the answer to the customer’s problem, don’t say, “I don’t know.” Tell the customer you will find out. If you can’t fix the problem, call for help in private.
Top 10 Best Technical Sales Techniques
Treat and convince every client they are your favorite.
Consistently look for ways to sell or upsell. The entire company has a responsibility to sell and deliver value to the client.
Quickly respond to, and resolve, customer requests and concerns.
Use the RAP model (Reason, Agenda, Payoff) to establish collaborative and effective meetings.
Use the APAC model (Acknowledge, Probe, Answer, Confirm) to handle objections.
Develop not only technical, but also product expertise, so you can quickly and accurately suggest solutions to customer needs.
Understand the technology behind your competitors’ products. Highlight their weaknesses and expand on why your company is superior, what it does better and why.
Get along with varying personality types. If a customer likes you, it makes selling easier.
Understand where you fit in the sales cycle and where you can make the biggest impact.
Stay informed on the latest industry trends and company product launches.