In the last decade or so there have been a number of books written, and practices proposed, on how to sell enterprise software. It probably started with the grand-father of business sales techniques, the SPIN methodology. I went through that technique in order to sell a data warehousing solution. (SPIN was an acronym for Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff).
Since then, I have been introduced to the approach of solution selling, mainly because Microsoft adopted that process, and more recently Jeff Thull’s books – The Prime Solution, and Mastering the Complex Sale – which I believe are a more realistic methodology for understanding how to sell complex products like enterprise software.
All these approaches seem to have one central assumption, that selling complex business applications is the same where ever you are. But arising from the sales discussions at SYSPRO’s international executive conference, I came to believe that there is no standard way of selling throughout the world, and that different cultural perceptions and expectations play a large part in the process of how enterprise software is sold.
Three brief examples:
- In the UK, business software buyers seem to have arrived at a standard perception of the price per seat at which certain types software should be licenced. So talking about value of a product is waste if your price per seat is higher than the generally-accepted price.
- The concept of not devaluing your product in the initial sales encounter seems to have gone out of the window in the US, where even the ERP mega-vendors are coming in at the early sales stage with significant discounts.
- In Australia, where large trans-continental distances between a company’s customers and suppliers are common, it is not necessarily the whole product that has value, but certain functionality, like SYSPRO’s Landed Cost Tracking, has a much higher premium in terms of customer need than other countries.
It seemed like the only aspect that everyone was prepared to agree on is that people still buy from people.
In the old cowboy movies, when a ‘red’ Indian said that someone was being duplicitous or exhibiting a double agenda, the words they were given to say were ‘XXX speaks with forked tongue”.
Analyst organizations often extol the values of the Internet, allowing teams to work together virtually, while being disconnected physically. But when you see a job opening for an analyst company it is frequently for a location which coincides with the analyst main office.
So when I saw this blog from the TechnologyEvaluation group for a new analyst position, the “forked tongue” comment came to mind.
Do you think I am being unfair?
Andrew McAfee has written another post on his blog about how employment appears to have been affected by technology. He quotes research by Jared Bernstein which shows how employment and productivity are diverging, and which attributes its to outsourcing and off-shoring.
I remember when that trend started to take root in the US around the Y2K period, and was continually amazed at how the corporations that did it, and the society it occurred in, were more interested in the short-term gains (lower costs and prices, higher profits) than the obvious long-term consequences (less local industry, more unemployment).
In my opinion, the solutions for the US is to start ‘re-shoring’ and to re-establish its manufacturing sector. A number of industry publications (e.g.,IndustryWeek and Manufacturing Executive) have been calling for this. I really look forward to seeing Americans being proud of having a thriving manufacturing sector back in their country.
A few days ago I was privileged to be included in a conference that SYSPRO held for all its international executives and senior managers. The title of the conference was ‘Future Focus’, as the conference was primarily around the company’s future strategy, and as SYSPRO CEO and founder Phil Duff pointed out, the key to making strategy work is focus.
The conference took place over several days and in two locations around Cape Town. Initially, the sales and marketing people were at a hotel in Milnerton; then everyone came together in the Franschoek valley, about an hour out of Cape Town. I stayed at the stunning ‘Le Franschoek‘ hotel.
Here are some of my photos.
If you want details about the actual conference, check the official SYSPRO blog – I’m sure there will be something there shortly.
Finally, a photo of some of the people I work with.