Tech Sales Mistake – and how to avoid them

A while ago, I did a bid loss review for on behalf of an organisation I no longer work with.

I was brought in as an external person as I wasn’t involved in the process (or given a bonus depending on it’s success or not) and so was a neutral party to be able to gain some honesty. The bid was for a technical solution and the client a major high-street name. The feedback was, unfortunately, quite damning. Amongst the issues reported were;

      • The potential client wanted something “which was inviting and intuitive” – not “something designed my Microsoft in the early 1980’s”. (Their words, not mine).

      • There was no response when asked how the organisation will evolve the product as technology changes.

      • A base product was demoed to show capabilities. It was faulty.

      • The client complained that although technical detail was needed, the proposal was “shrouded in abbreviations with core information hidden behind confusing techno-babble”.

      • A very senior member of the company accompanied the pitch team without prior involvement – and proceeded to take over and cross-sell lots of other (unwanted and not required) services.

    Do you notice what hasn’t been mentioned?

    Within a thirty-minute call, the last thing to be called out was the price. (Yes, this was off the mark too).

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen a combination of many of these things over the years, so to summarise, here’s some (unsurprising but important) tips for anyone selling a tech solution;

      1. Read. The. Brief.
        Try to understand the client and their needs. What core problem do they need solving? Focus on that – don’t introduce the kitchen sink unless it’s relevant.
        A great selling position to be in is to help a client understand a problem they didn’t realise they had. That’s great – but if this can’t ignore the initial problem. It’s like taking your car to get a big  fuel leak fixed because it’s dangerous and failed it’s MOT – and then driving away with four new tyres which you didn’t need. Yes, you may have needed new tyres at some point in the future, but if you’re still leaking fuel, you’ve not resolved your first problem; the car is still dangerous, fails it’s MOT and isn’t fit for purpose.

      2. Have a plan for your products – for both delivery and development.
        Does your technology have a plan? How quick does it take to implement? How will it evolve and change?
        It may be unrealistic that something you sell today will be endlessly future proof – however someone making a decent financial investment will want to be assured they aren’t buying something that will be technically redundant in six months.
        Technical implementation can be a huge task for large organisations. Technology changes quickly and your prospect will want to know how relevant it will be in several years’ time.

      3. Who uses the solution, and how?
        Don’t under-estimate UI. Tech people can maybe sell tech products to tech people – but that’s no good if the actual user finds it as incomprehensible as the schematics for a jumbo jet (I’m assuming this is quite complex).This was key to the example above. The conversation came at a time when the home-tech market was at a stage of huge growth with people used to Apple Macs, iPads, touch-screen phones, voice activation and smart TV’s.
        That doesn’t mean your solution needs to have similar features to these examples (unless relevant) – but what it does mean is that people are increasing tech savvy  – and the expectation level has gone up. But be warned though…not everyone tech savvy. People have different needs and challenges. You have to consider the user. Do some research. Ask questions. Consider the future. Think about accessibility.

      4. Cut the technobabble.
        If you can’t clearly articulate what your tech does, and what benefits it brings – then you need a rethink. Don’t hide the truth behind layers of noise and long words and unnecessary monologues for the sake of it. This is a huge problem with many organisations, many products, many people. Just because you can use lots of long words doesn’t mean you’re making sense.
        Consider your frustration listening to two opposing politicians debate on TV. How often do you find yourself screaming at the TV; “just answer the ******* question!”

      5. Make sure it works.
        OK – so you have a great plan, a secure platform and you’ve demonstrated how you would solve not only your client’s immediate problem (aka ‘the exhaust’), but you’ve highlighted the business benefits of resolving other emerging problems (ie; the ‘bald tyres’). In addition, your proposed visuals would win design awards and even the best accessibility design expert would struggle to find fault in your inclusive approach.
        But here’s the crunch – does your tech actually work? Be honest. Go back to the core function you proclaim it can perform. Can it actually do that? Strip away all the bells and whistles and focus on the absolute basics.

        Blatantly obvious / some insights / uncomfortable reading ?

      Imagine all the hard work of your sales and business development teams failing close to the final hurdle? The time, the cost – the frustration.

      A large part of what I do is help organisations to consider these problems and resolve them before they’ve spent the time getting to that important meeting / proposal and presentation.

      How good do you want your business to be?

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