Buying Matters More Than Selling
On Selling UC
The biggest recent change in the communications industry is not a product or technology. The biggest change is in how products and services get acquired.
The old model was well understood. Prospects were small teams of technical staff that followed a predictable sequence. The selection process went something like exploration, evaluation, and engagement. Sellers tracked this journey in phases such as awareness, consideration, and decision - often depicted as a funnel.
The problem today is buyers no longer adhere to this well defined process. The buying process evolved, and the linear funnel was replaced with a chaotic process. Further, vendor sales teams are involved later in the process, and thus have much less influence over the journey.
These changes are not unique to enterprise communications. Consider car sales which once began when the prospect arrived at the dealer. Now prospects first arrive at the dealer well informed, often only intending to confirm what they already know. Today, the buyer (cars and enterprise communications) gets pretty far along before asking for sales assistance.
Today, enterprise communications get evaluated by cross-functional teams - many representatives are non technical. There’s far less focus on feeds and speeds, and more on experience and ease of use. The selection team explores, evaluates, and engages with vendors in concurrent stages. The teams rely more on their self driven research (via public and premium online portals) than vendor presentations.
These changes are intuitive in the consumer space. Anyone interested in a car, gadget, or appliance can find all the information they require online including reviews and specifications. But it can be a challenge with enterprise communications. There’s lots of confusion around features and scope. For example, past PBX size was loosely comparable to headcount, a UC solution now has many more endpoints per user. How much data traffic will mobile clients generate? Will remote users impact trunking requirements? Is the network ready for video? Will the employees use video? Will softphones replace hard phones?
These questions and discussions were part of the sales assisted journey before. But waiting for the phone to ring isn’t a viable strategy. Instead, vendors need to influence prospects via self-service education. The role of UC sales is less about cold calling and traditional prospecting, and more about facilitating independent research by providing a path to effective content such as white papers, social monitoring, analyst reports, events, and webinars.
The implications of these changes are subtle, but important. Marketing becomes less about the product or service, and more about the customer’s journey. Sales presentations need to be two way conversations designed to foster a dialog. The sales qualification process needs to be updated based on the conversation. Websites need to be optimized to drive discovery. For example, instead of click-to-connect to a salesperson, an ROI calculator may be more effective at engaging a prospect. Self-Service tools need to stimulate ideas - testimonials that emphasize creative use cases are more effective than customer satisfaction testimonials.
They say sales is a people-skill. Effective sales people are likeable, and while that may always be true - the same now holds true for online discovery. Websites that don’t offer an educational path will dead-end the sales process. We’ve all been frustrated by websites that don’t offer instant gratification.
There’s no silver bullet or easy answer here other than to make sure that there’s a path because the buyer’s process starts online - more likely at a search site than a vendor website. The online shopper and researcher is seeking objective information - and has very little patience in finding it. The most successful vendors, providers, and channel partners are those facilitate discovery. They are the ones that prospects will repeatedly turn-to for information and engagement.
Dave Michels TalkingPointz.