How to sell corporate software and survive?
Technological companies have one problem – they are thinking of technologies, process, code, mechanics, but often forget about customers. And this point is often noticeable, especially in the field of software development. But this is not about all, of course. Sometimes software development is pure inspiration and a minimum of ideas on how and to whom to sell all of this. And you need to earn. And here come the customers, good and different. It’s time to look these fantastic people in the eye and find out how to deal with them.
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You cannot start with the technology and try to figure out where you are going to sell it.» said Steve Jobs.
But, most IT companies do business in exactly the opposite way: they come up with an idea, implement it, in the process learn about the presence of competitors, they are surprised, nervous, rebuilt, and then try to squeeze into a busy market. And you know what is most interesting? It turns out that it succeeds! For example, RegionSoft CRM was brought to the enterprise software market 11 years ago and they knew all competitors, their weaknesses and strengths, features, etc. Now, having heard about the next CRM-system in the market, developers lazily open its website, sigh, close and make own further. But whatever the quality of the new products, each of them finds its client. As well as online offices, media programs, ITSM utilities, project management systems, etc., find them.
The market is big, there are a lot of customers – why not? The main thing is to find an approach.
They choose us
One of the main stages of a client-company relationship is the product selection process. And this is a very complex process, which you and I can influence with the wrong force and the wrong vector. There are a number of reasons for this.
- Let’s honestly admit – there are few among the companies that produce a unique product. More precisely, not even like that. All our products are unique and have certain advantages, but from the point of view of the buyer, at the stage of selection, they are all the same: for example, choosing CRM, the client does not know before the first contact with the options whether RegionSoft CRM is different from other CRMs, or Alpha hosting from hosting Beta. Accordingly, he is looking for a solution to close his needs, he knows how to do something with the letters “CRM” in the name, but doesn’t know how he will choose.
- The choice itself is a delicate psychological story within which sudden factors can play: not the price, but the reputation, not the reliability, but the opinion of a friend, not the functionality, but the beauty and smoothness of the interface. Accordingly, even if you are mega-brains and lazy marketers have collected all the information about the client, you will never fully know what drives a particular buyer. That’s why artificial intelligence and scoring inside the same CRM is so problematic – one transaction can be formally similar to the other in formal terms, but fundamentally different in motive (Conditionally, someone buys a Land Cruiser for himself because “manage your dream”, someone because “yes they cannot be killed”, someone “yes I will go fishing and hunting to the most remote places.” Moreover, all three of them, for example, are 45 years old with an income of over 3000$ per month). Yes, our products are also often chosen for some incredible emotional reasons.
- Finally, the client himself does not want anyone to know about him and push through his decision. He prefers to contact himself and seek clarification. But this, of course, does not mean at all that it is necessary to leave him. But you need to act with respect and attention to the requirements, and not boost as at vegetable market.
So, in the selection process, the client should have access to a lot of information at all stages: from the first interest to the purchase. Moreover, the information should be accessible and complete throughout your relationship, including technical support. This does not mean that you need to make mail full with newsletters (especially purely advertising), but you need to invest in educational programs of customers, especially, if you make it smart, the costs will not be large.
Making a decision to buy corporate software is usually group process in which, in addition to decision makers (DM), there are several influence actors whose opinion should not be ignored. Let’s take a closer look at them – yet you need to know the client by sight.
Scouts – those who research the market, the product, collects requirements and conducts all primary intelligence information. As a rule, these are internal experts who do not make a purchasing decision and do not have a budget, but have a significant impact due to experience and expertise. It can be ordinary employees with good professional competencies, experience and the ability to compare business requirements and vendor promises.
It will be the most difficult for you to impress them, because they are not affected by the arguments of economy (like tops), they are absolutely not interested in simplicity and design, as for end users (they know that this is not the main thing in software), and to them It’s difficult to get close to the principle (if only because the top can be somehow identified, but it’s not so easy to reach a simple employee). These are fighters of the invisible front. But it is precisely for them that the information on the website or the company’s blog works, for example. They will be happy to study the information, pay attention to the ratio of advertising and expertise, enjoy the open information about the demo version and prices, which means they will form a certain positive impression about you and the product.
If we are talking about corporate software for commercial and operational activities (and not about an IDE or an IT infrastructure management system), then end users participate in the choice indirectly, but:
- they can resist and look for arguments against – because the new software is a relief of work in the long run, but the fear of the new and the fear for their skills are right now;
- training materials are important to them (video, documentation, the ability to ask questions).
It is extremely difficult, almost impossible to influence them – so shift this function onto the shoulders of their colleagues. The only thing you can do is conduct quality training and provide cool documentation and materials. Well, another point: if a group online or offline presentation suddenly took place with the participation of representatives of end users and you are asked simple, strange, or even provocative questions (“And how will I feel better with you than without you?”), Answer correctly, in the case and without arrogance, attract those for whom you ultimately wrote the program.
These are specialists associated with the purchase and operation of software – those who don’t pay for it, but configure, maintain and maintain all the time.
Severe IT people
In the case of software sales, IT specialists play a significant role: network engineers, system administrators, power engineers and even outsourcers, if provided by the company. They need simplicity in maintenance and implementation, administration, ease of integration and security – this is ideal, but in reality the list of these requirements sounds more like sarcasm. They may turn out to be your most terrible opponents and even enemies: after all, it is they who will increase the number of worries for the same salary, the need to somehow integrate new software into the existing infrastructure, and become the backbone of internal expertise. There are clinical cases: an absolutely lazy sysadmin will do everything so that the boss does not buy any new systems – “Yes, we have enough Excel and Outlook, what else is there to spend money on some kind of software!”
It is difficult to cope with their sabotage: they will find arguments even against the examination. We will not talk about illegal methods – these are your personal moral principles, we do not practice and do not advise you. But everything that makes life easier for internal IT professionals will be on your side: simple and quick installation, a transparent backup system, applications that will help you cope with configuration and operation. For example, we created a very comfortable environment around RegionSoft CRM: we use a fast and trouble-free Firebird DBMS, developed the RegionSoft Application Server (a script server for monitoring key events, creating scheduled backups, creating automated program scripts for integration projects, as well as for almost any task ), RegionSoft VoIP Connector (smart telephony router for RegionSoft CRM), we provide an easy system update. This helps to work effectively with the CRM-system and successfully integrate it into the processes of the company.
Financiers do not really delve into the essence of the issue, but they will certainly compare prices with competitors, and it would be nice to have arguments why you are more expensive than competitors or even … cheaper (this is also suspicious). No need to talk about your processes, optimization and so on. Just provide information about what formally your decision can be and that the price is due to the features of licensing, delivery model, functional content. In fact, financiers work closely with top management, so it is better to direct all efforts in this area to work with the latter.
If you work with small and medium-sized businesses, a manager decides a lot in the purchase, who, due to the size of the company, is involved in most processes. For executives, it is especially important that your software meets their business goals, can solve existing problems, or at least simplify them, and ultimately play a positive role in profit growth. But this does not mean that you have to come, open the door with your feet and declare: “With our CRM, your income will grow by 43%.” Of course not, it’s a lie. You must provide all the necessary information: demo version, documentation, tell about the installation and approximate prices, provide official reviews (if necessary).
And then – work, just work – ask about requirements, problems, diagnose, specify from which sides you can help resolve issues. Move the focus of your conversations with potential customers from discussing prices. Instead, take advantage of the benefits they will receive from your product or service. How much time and resources will it take? Will the implementation of your software save their processes? Reassure executives that they cannot live without your software, and price will not be a problem. This is one of the most effective B2B sales strategies that you can use with respect to top managers.
But here you will find another unpleasant surprise – managers may ask about ROI, return on investment. Prepare an answer that is relevant to your company and be prepared to quickly and elegantly answer the question. There is no universal scheme for how to do this: it all depends on the area of software development, cost, delivery model, etc.
In general, here, as in a computer game – you need to go through all the monsters and reach the boss, then you can count on success.