The Tricks the Old (Sales) Dogs Taught You Were Actually Dog $%#@!

Over my past few posts, we have talked a lot about vendors’ reseller programs and their relevance in today’s business climate, as well as the need for missionaries to take your technical message and solution to market.  Shifting gears today, let’s discuss how we all think about the most important of business processes: getting the sale.

I was young in technology sales at the time when technology sales were young too, and you didn’t get tossed into the water to see if you could swim or not.  The analogy was that the young sales guys were like the ‘new dogs.’  We were sent to work with the ‘old dogs’ so that they could show us how to do it.  Kind of makes sense, right?

Well, a lot of what the ‘old dogs’ taught us was complete BS. Or, maybe more appropriately, complete dog s$%&.

For example, some classic technology sales philosophies or mottoes you might have heard before:

  • “Do whatever you have to do in order to get the sale.”
  • “Your objective is to get the sale – at all costs.”
  • “Don’t worry about whether it sticks at the customer – that’s support or engineering’s problem.”
  • “Don’t confuse ‘selling’ with ‘installing.’
  • “We have to move those boxes – get ’em sold and get ’em out of here!”

And, my personal favorite (actually the theme of an annual sales conference back in my [hazy] past):

  • “Sell, sell, sell  – or all of you lazy bastards are fired!”

Unfortunately, a lot of people in technology sales today, especially infrastructure (servers, storage, networking equipment, security equipment) still think this stuff is right. But, it is NOT right.  In fact, it’s counter-intuitive. The technology business is not about selling stuff; it’s about applying innovative technological solutions to fundamental business problems.

The key problem with the messages highlighted above is that they all confuse objectives with results. The SALE is not the objective; it is the RESULT!  The result of doing the right things and doing enough of them.  The objective is to find that customer that has the problem your technology was designed to solve.  The sale will be the result of qualifying the customer properly and doing enough discovery in order to verify:

  1. If there is pain caused by this business problem;
  2. How much business pain is he in;
  3. How much is that pain costing him;
  4. Whether or not he can/will spend money to alleviate that pain.

The old dogs never got the distinction between objectives and results.  The old dogs also felt the only real problem they were here to solve was the lightness of their own wallets.  In this industry, which has been so innovative over the years but has also gone through so much upheaval with bubbles expanding and bursting, you HAVE to know the difference.  If you are not in business to solve problems, you cannot sustain your business long-term.  And, selling someone a “solution” that is not right for them or does not solve their problem but does separate them from their money, is a recipe for disaster.

As I tell my sales and marketing employees, “Find out first if we can help someone – be thorough but straightforward.  Failing fast is better than dragging out a sales process.”  And, ultimately that customer will appreciate you for not wasting their time.

Well, on second thought, this is something at least one old (sales) dog will tell you that is right!

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