Technology-enabled solutions are intangible sales. People don’t buy the machine; they buy what it enables. Average sales people tend to perceive technology as a tangible, so they focus on the functionality. Exceptional sales people understand that customers only care about the results the technology enables, which is intangible. This difference in perception about the nature of technology is the fundamental factor in determining a sales person’s success.
Technology is the actualization of abstract theories. The more theories that are actualized, the more powerful the technology is. For example, there is a computer chip in my car that makes me a better driver. The computer chip senses the car beginning to skid on a patch of ice much faster than I can. It automatically sends messages to the anti-lock brake system so the car responds to the changing road conditions before I am even aware there may be a problem. This simple application is the actualization of theories that span the disciplines of physics, mechanical engineering, human perception, and computer software. It would take a long time to explain how it all worked. As a car buyer, however, I only care about the fact that it makes me a safer driver.
The more sophisticated the technology is, the greater the abstraction. Selling abstractions is more than just relating benefits. It is about linking the functionality of the technology to the desired end result, which is the intangible promise of the technology. I can only appreciate the value of the car’s computer controlled anti-locking device when I understand how it improves my driving. If the sales person just explains anti-locking brakes, I don’t perceive the benefit. If she tells me that I will be a better driver, but doesn’t explain how, then I won’t believe her. She must help me understand the relationship between the how the technology is applied and the results that are important to me before I will value the technology.
Selling the value of your technology.
The translation of abstract theory into useful applications that deliver strategic benefits is the essence of selling value. Value is created when the customer believes the technology solution will help them accomplish their objectives. To develop the customer’s conviction you must integrate their learning process with their decision-making process.
The sales person must provide the customer with the right information at the right time. Furthermore, it must be done in a way that increases the customer’s perception of need, urgency to buy and appreciation of the value contribution of the solution.
The information puzzle gets even more complex as we incorporate the relentless rate of change associated with any technology solution. As the technology evolves and its applications expand, it becomes practically impossible to stay current and informed about the solution. The body of information that the sales person draws upon to sell a technology solution is constantly evolving. Products mutate. New technologies replace old ones. Competitors’ products change. Markets accelerate. Each change has multiple implications for how customers buy and the best ways to sell the solution.
Keeping current about all the factors that influence a technology sale is not easy. It is hard enough to keep track of the ever-changing information. The fact that you must synthesize it into strategically sequenced, customer learning experiences that build credibility and value exponentially increases its complexity. No wonder the sales superstars make so much money!