There was an article recently in the online Harvard Business Review that stated that to close a sale you needed to be a dominating personality.
Dominance is gaining the willing obedience of the customer…
A salesperson’s goal is to gain dominance over a submissive customer.
I must admit that made me think of used car salespeople.
Then I saw another HBR article which discussed how to respond in an emotional situation which included this:
As we approached the house we could see the deck was filled with about a dozen college-aged men joking around and drinking.
My body tensed and my emotions intensified. I felt a mix of fear, insecurity, competitiveness, and jealousy…
I turned to Eleanor and told her what I was feeling. She laughed; she also felt aggressive and had an immediate, instinctual, emotional response, but the opposite of mine. She saw them as obnoxious, uncaring, sexist, and unattractive. She felt superior to them.
I read that as dominating people can actually put other people off – i.e., obstruct the sale.
Then I read Jonathan Farrington’s post on why customers buy from you:
Success in selling requires an understanding of these basics of motivation:
• Your motivation both as a person and as a salesperson
• The other person’s motivation both as a person and as a buyer
The most important fact to remember in influencing the behaviour and decisions of others is that – “People do things for their reasons, not ours.”
For me, this put both previous articles in context. Yes, you may be more dominating, but people still “do things for their own reasons”, not just because you think you can push them to do so.
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.
I have just been involved in the shortest ever ERP deal closure in my +10 years of working in the enterprise software industry.
An engineering company came to us for help in managing construction inventory between South Africa and a big project in the DRC.
They came to see us last Tuesday, we sent them the project proposal last Friday, and today – 6 days later – they have told us they have accepted our proposal!
It’s a smallish SYSPRO licence, so the ratio of implementation cost to software cost is +3 to 1. The company had looked at SAP (and JDE, I think) but were put off by the initial costs and the change management those solutions would have required.
I am speculating a bit here, but I think the reasons for the speedy decision were:
- their project is big, and so are the budgets
- there is a time-critical factor
- they are a medium-size company so not a lot of IT skills and experience
- we were able show them from our experience how we could make their operations work with the minimum of fuss
- we did a damn good sales job!
Its news that is too good for me to keep quiet about. I have been running with an opportunity at a company in SA that makes steel pipes – we started talking in April, and did a small business process review project for them in May-July. From that BP review, we proposed a SYSPRO re-implementation together with a manufacturing integration component, our project manufacturing solution and some customised software. It was the largest proposal I have ever worked on in terms of software and services revenue.
The company financial director called me to say our proposal has been accepted, in full!
Commenting on the win, a friend in the civil engineering field said that now I could take a Christmas break in relaxed confidence … as I would only have to worry about getting resources for the project after the new year.
This is a question that I have raised before, and anecdotal evidence indicates that many ERP resellers are not happy with their ERP principal. However, from the blogs I follow I get the impression from other countries that ERP vendors are better are working with their partners and developing business than they are in South Africa.
Our two vendors are SYSPRO and Microsoft. Colleagues in the company have recently been complaining about SYSPRO’s bureaucracy and lack of flexibility in dealing with customer issues. The advantage for us, however, is that as SYSPRO is a local company we can escalate issues up the executice chain. They also have in-depth knowledge of local conditions and market expectations and have in many cases been more than ready to accommodate requirements from prospects, in particular.
Microsoft is a different case. Other colleagues in the company are nearly at the stage of telling Microsoft Dynamics to get lost. So what does Dynamics lack in SA? Firstly, stable long-term management; four different heads in four years does not provide stability for partners or continuity of strategy. Secondly, I my opinion (and as I have said before), the local team are very much execution-bound, meaning that strategy, planning and decision-making gets done in Europe by people who don’t have in-depth knowledge of local conditions and market expectations. Thirdly, again in my opinion, Microsoft is too process-bound to be flexible enough when they need to be.
Instead of operating the SA unit as a sub-division, I think Microsoft could learn a lot by studying how Bidvest and Murray and Roberts, both SA success stories, allows their subsidiary companies a great deal of latitude and flexibility while at the same time focusing on some core financial, market and customer metrics.
I have been trying to make contact with a prospect on our opportunity list for weeks but he is always out or unavailable. Then I read Jonathan Farrington’s blog about voicemail. Let’s see if his suggestions work as well as he claims.