Buying Matters More Than Selling

Buying Matters More Than Selling

By Dave Michels April 14, 2014 3 Comments
Dave Michels JPG
Buying Matters More Than Selling by Dave Michels

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.

 

 

3 Responses to "Buying Matters More Than Selling" - Add Yours

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Art Rosenberg 4/20/2014 12:05:35 PM

Dave,

It is not that simple to sell future of business communications!

There are many new complications involved in "selling" business communications. It is not about hardware so much any more, and includes the challenge of providing different functionality for different types of end users who will be exploiting BYOD mobility. It ties into identifying business process applications that should be UC-enabled for flexible, "click-to-contact" options and personalized notifications, as well as considerations for migrating to "cloud" connectivity.

Since there will be differences based on vertical market "use cases," there will be no pat answers to the prospective buyer's questions, and learning from a "trial" may be the best way to get many answers.
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Michael Monroe 4/21/2014 2:46:56 PM

I agree with Art "it's not that simple to sell..." Frankly it's harder than ever.

In October 2013 and this past Feb - I write extensively on this "new selling paradigm". While there are elements of the paradigm that are not necessarily new, identifying the decision-makers, the decision making process and who has the budget has never been more difficult to ascertain. In some accounts and technology sets there are multiples of both.
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Donna Sudderth 4/23/2014 1:07:47 PM

Selling business communications is definitely a different game than it was just a few years ago. I agree with Art in the idea that it's not just about hardware anymore. In the same respect, it's not really even about voice anymore. The idea that business users are looking streamline their communications, simplify their IT management, and integrate their desk phone with the applications they use everyday, makes it even more difficult for salespeople to succeed based on the traditional sales model.

As a marketer, it requires a step back to look at the customer, evaluate their pain points and facilitate a dialogue that will help them figure out just what they are trying to accomplish. This can certainly be a difficult task, considering (to Art's point) the needs across certain verticals may be drastically different. While some businesses may simply be looking at CapEx vs OpEx, others may require fully-integrated solutions with apps - regardless of cost.

There isn't a "silver bullet." But there is a great opportunity for service providers to engage customers online and help facilitate the opportunity to gather more information on what a customer is looking to achieve, provide educational content that answers their questions and offer significant advice on how to reach their business communication goals. If they can do this, the likelihood of not only closing that deal, but also gaining valuable insight on the market increases significantly.

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