Approaches to selling enterprise software

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


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