Convergence Channel: Selling Technology as a Business Solution
Customers’ businesses and associated needs change quickly today. Therefore, the key to selling them advanced security solutions is fully grasping their unique qualities and leveraging technology to help them achieve their enterprise goals.
Chaos theory is the field of applied mathematics study that involves philosophy, physics, biology and economics; sounds a little bit like professional selling. Chaos theory focuses on how small initial changes in a dynamic system can produce wild swings in expected outcomes, referred to as the “butterfly effect.” In sales we have always worked the math, projected the results and sometimes get surprised.
Welcome to the embodiment of the chaos theory called convergence selling! Last month we explored a systematic approach to building a surveillance specification by asking the right questions. Being a recovering engineer, I still like order, process, planning and predictable results, as do my clients, even in these times of dynamic systems.
So you can imagine how unsettling it is to work during a time when technology and the business rate of change (delta for us engineer types) is so extraordinary that the 1990s are no more relevant than the 1950s. Do you know how long I have been waiting to write that sentence as an industry graybeard?
Don’t believe me? Remember, healthy skepticism is a good thing so let me ask you this situational question. Could you get your flight information, weather conditions, boarding pass, E-mail with attachments, make reservations, get driving directions, send a proposal to a client, report to your boss and send pictures home in 12 minutes on a 3 1⁄2 X 2 1⁄2 x 1⁄2-inch box attached to your belt for $80 per month, while sitting in the gate area of an airport in 1999? How about 2003?
What I just described is absolutely normal and can be witnessed in any airport, anytime and almost anywhere in the world today, just 12 years later. Could you even imagine that in 1999? So what does that mean to those of us who have to sell in today’s converged and very chaotic market? Actually, everything.
Old-School Sales Tactics Still Work
Conventional approaches of effectively selling have shifted faster than product distribution channels and new competitors. So a pure numbers game approach (100 sales calls = 20 sales), and linear sales tools and thought processes are not as effective as they once were, just 10 years ago. Does this mean the basics in sales don’t apply anymore?
No, not really. In fact, the impact of face-to-face business dialogue is still the most important factor in qualifying opportunities worth pursuing, and developing your competitive advantage in a converged market. I know this sounds so old school; could it really work today?
You bet it can and here is why. We are working in a very nonlinear selling environment that requires acknowledgement of dynamic systems, and the chaos theory. To most salespeople, chaos is part of our vocabulary, daily activity and sometimes our thought processes. Understanding how chaos impacts our ability to position our sales approach and subsequent income is a different matter altogether. Inherently, salespeople understand that the linear sales process theory and the reality of chaos theory are not compatible, and therefore spend most of their time reconciling the frictional differences.
In the perfect world, sales process tracking systems use the well-known sales funnel approach in an attempt to accurately forecast sales revenues. Great idea and very important to business operations as well as financing; however, the accuracy can make black magic look scientific by comparison! This can wear you out in a hurry. Can anything be done?
Knowing Client Is a Secret Weapon
While we must deal with the reality of linear measurement process of CRM, company sales process compliance, bosses asking why an “opportunity” has stagnated, and why forecasts are not more accurate, we as salespeople still must put food on the table, pay mortgages and pay for braces. Before you ever show up with polished shoes, your prospects now have unprecedented access to product and marketing information, pricing, company comparisons and user forums. You may be thinking, “How can I really make a difference and add unique business value?” Use your secret weapon.
You can do this by realizing where your prospect might be in this new chaotic sales cycle, then confirming where they are at; not wasting time engaging in face-to-face business dialogue, then committing multiple hours on a proposal that has on average about a 15-percent chance of closing in your favor (in my experience). In the new chaotic sales funnel suspects, prospects and opportunities do not move in a linear, gravity-fed, decision-making behavioral pattern. They actually move in and out of the sales funnel based on the acquisition of new data in real-time. They engage in ad hoc buying relationships with other departments at their company.
The secret weapon is your knowledge of existing customers and how they use your solutions to solve business issues. This would, of course, mean you need to spend some more time with them to understand the chaos they face in their business, and then transfer that into your competitive advantage.
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