Nancy Nardin, Founder of Smart Selling Tools, is passionate about sales tools and the impact they can make on business, because it’s hard to separate the two these days. Smart Selling Tools is the interface between software buyers and software providers. It’s a destination website for any individual involved in business development for their company: they can find software-based tools to help them remain productive throughout the business development cycle.
I spoke with Nancy recently about how today’s business owners need to develop greater understanding about software tools and how these tools impact revenue generation – regardless of the size of your business. This blog post summarizes the top talking points of our discussion.
Talking Point 1: The biggest issue for buyers is that they don’t really care about buyer tools.
Nancy Nardin and Smart Selling Tools is in a unique position: she works with vendors to enhance communication to buyers and she works with buyers to better articulate their needs and increase their knowledge base of software selling tools.
Businesses are busy. And Nancy perceives it’s hard for them to keep up with running their business while staying on top of technology trends. Technology isn’t what they turn to first, as a solution, because it’s an unknown and they aren’t comfortable. Nardin feels that businesses turn to their reps (or engineers who sell) first and try to squeeze more out of them: make more calls, get good leads, see more people, generate more revenue. It’s an old model.
Talking Point 2: There’s this little thing called sales capacity.
Nancy emphasizes there are only so many hours in a day for a squeezed sales rep to remain engaged and productive. There is a limited capacity. If you want to increase productivity, you have to look at it from the perspective of capacity. If you want reps to go on more calls, you can’t ask them to get more involved filling out sales reports.
In addition, entrepreneurs and small businesses usually have one person covering multiple functions. The owners and employees are constantly running out to sell their services or products, design or produce output, assemble the final outcome and ship it, and invoice their customers. They lose the flow of business development while they are “doing.” Nancy feels that sales productivity tools can help with this situation.
Entrepreneurs and start-ups tend to be risk-takers by nature, so they may be more apt to try sales tools. On the other hand, they have fewer resources. These companies tend to focus on the basics, such as setting up email and perhaps online meeting services or collaboration platforms. Nancy encourages them to think about appointment scheduling tools that do away with all the back and forth “busy” activity, as well as marketing automation tools which identify trigger events, create content marketing, and generate leads.
She doesn’t think certain industries are more savvy than others in using selling tools, but everyone needs to start looking at how business tools can help them – no matter how small your company is. In the next year, companies using these tools will have an advantage over those that don’t.
Talking Point 3: Sales Tools are software productivity services that help you develop business.
Most entrepreneurs are technologists and engineers: they have brilliant minds to create amazing products (even software applications!) but they don’t understand the sales environment. Nancy feels that sales productivity tools help small business owners and start-ups learn about the sales process.
Most of what is coming out is Cloud-based, where you subscribe vs. own the software outright. Most people think of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) when she talks about sales tools, but there are a lot more out there.
Automating even the appointment-setting process or CRM, allows you to keep your fingers on the pulse of leads and where you are in terms of the sales cycle. It’s not about waiting for people to call your company. You have to define a way of being proactive and reaching out to potential customers.
Talking Point #4: Sales productivity tools help you identify where companies are in the buying process
People are busy. There are sparse opportunities to sell face-to-face. Nancy feels that pressured vendors end up pitching products rather than determining what product will solve a business issue. Many buyers come to the vendor already having researched what it is that they want to buy. As a seller, you want to avoid this situation because, otherwise, you don’t have any power.
Nancy suggests implementing marketing automation technology. It puts code on every page of your website. Then offer content, say a webinar, something to entice someone to complete a web form. Once completed, you can track when the visitor returns to your website and where they searched. If you visitor has visited your website three times in the last week, and the last time she went to the pricing section, you can set up alerts so this visitor becomes a high priority.
Talking Point #5: Be aware of trigger events.
Nancy offered the example of OneSource software, which allows you to set up alerts based on triggers. If you sell office furniture, you may want to set up alerts when your best accounts set up new offices, for example, so you proactively contact that company before they start searching for a supplier.
(Babette’s note: let’s say you are a custom manufacturer of aerospace mil-spec components, and company X was awarded a sizable contract from company Y. Now you can contact them and congratulate them before they create their component vendor specs. Spec yourself in!).
Trigger events allow you to be ahead of the trends and on top of industry information. It becomes a differentiator for you. So instead of showing up and starting to pitch away to the customer, you can offer insight from the buyer’s perspective, instead.
Talking Point #6: There’s a chasm between where businesses “are” and where vendors think they “are.”
Nancy emphasized that vendors (even entrepreneurial start-ups) think differently than buyers do. The vendor is thinking about their solution. The buyer is thinking about their business problem. Vendors think they should sell electronic solutions software. Buyers are thinking: “Why are my contracts taking so long to close?” Vendors have so little time with buyers that they are trying to squeeze too much information into these meetings. Instead, take the time to understand the buyer’s perspective instead of prematurely pitching your solution.
Nancy feels a big disconnect is that vendors think buyers know what their technology needs are. They don’t. Vendors rush to tell all about their product, but they don’t do so much showing, to determine if the software even meets a buyer’s need.
Talking Point #7: Nancy Nardin’s company bridges the buyer-vendor knowledge gap.
Remember how exciting “show and tell days” were in kindergarten? Why? People need to see how something works before they have “aha!” moments. Since Nancy receives so many demos from her vendors, she thought: why not offer them to buyers? In her virtual online show-and-tell webinar series, she asks vendors questions and buyers can ask questions online.
Nancy thinks the sales process is a lot like dating. Vendors are ready to sell their product now! Sellers are pressured to close sales quickly without establishing a relationship. Buyers aren’t ready for that. First the buyer has to acknowledge they even have a problem, and then that it’s urgent, and then that there’s a downside to doing nothing.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013-2016. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.