For those who are charged with selling a technical or highly specialized product or service, it’s understandable that you may want to boast, with pride, about how much you know about your offering.
Too, it may be even more tempting to match wits with your buyer – so prideful of your body of knowledge that you “word vomit” on your customer. Not only will they not know what hit them, but in an era where more non-technical decisionmakers are finding their way into the sales funnel, you may just be leaving a mess that they aren’t prepared to clean up.
More importantly, your buyer will be most impressed with your interest in THEIR unique problems and challenges – less so with YOUR personal pride in being brilliant.
That’s why it may seem counterintuitive, but true, that the best way to sell a technical product today, is simplicity. Though, for some people, this may feel like they have one arm, and half their brain, tied behind their back, it is completely necessary. (Don’t worry, brainiacs, there will be a time for you to unleash your brilliance later in the funnel)
So how can you best train your sales pros to appropriately navigate the nuances of technical sales? Here are some tips that have been helpful to me and our clients here at The Brooks Group:
- KISS: An acronym which I’ve modified to say “keep it simple, salesperson,” this is far and away the most relevant advice I can give anyone who works in the technical arena. Anytime you make anything you’re selling difficult for the customer, you’re going to risk losing them. A true sign of brilliance is the ability to manipulate your vast body of knowledge about your product, and to talk about your product in a high level, simplified way, to connect those dots for your customers so that they don’t have to.
- Bring the Experts: If you feel unprepared to address a particular technical question, this is not the time to “fake it until you make it.” Be transparent. If you don’t have the answer, say so – assure the customer you will find out more and get back to them. If you know ahead of time that your buyer actually wants the full-blown technical details, don’t be afraid to bring in subject matter experts who can speak to your buyer at their same level. This will help reduce frustration for all parties and ensure that everyone is speaking the same language.
- Probe with Intention: As alluded to, above, make sure you are truly listening to your buyer. Find out where your product fits into their problem-solving matrix. Understand whether your product is a single solution, or part of a larger lineup of third-party offerings that combine to provide the needed benefit. You might actually learn something new about your product – a new opportunity for improvement that you can bring back to the product team, for example.
- Don’t Assume — Ask: Leave your pre-conceived notions at the door. I have found that when sales pros make certain assumptions, they effectively close the door to the kind of free-flowing dialogue that often results in some unexpected opportunities.
One last point: Don’t feel like you have to “boil the ocean” when presenting your technical product. The learning curve can be intense – it can be several months, or even a year, before you really start to feel comfortable with the nuances of your product or service.
When I first started in aviation sales, the prevailing wisdom was that it would take 10 years or more to become a true expert in the field. Although I may not have become an expert in all things aviation, I did become an expert on my product and on the right way to position myself in my market. I did that by being honest about my gaps in understanding, while doing everything I could to learn from both internal and external stakeholders.
Remember, though the subject matter may be complex, the mission for your sales professionals is time-honored: Be honest and authentic. Build trust. And create the kinds of long-term connections that will be of mutual benefit to both buyer and seller.