Have you seen that National Geographic special on Orca, or killer, whales? In the program I was watching, a pod of 40 whales lunched their way through a seal colony. OK, yes, I know, yuck. The older whales were departing for other hunting grounds, except for two young whales that hung back and decided to have a bit of post meal fun. They swam up onto the shoreline to snatch a young seal.
Not exactly. They started to toss the seal back and forth between them, like a ball, for about 15 minutes. Just when I thought they were playing with their food, one of the orcas placed the seal gently in its mouth and swam back onto the beach and deposited the frightened seal on the sand. Game over. The seal made a bee-line for higher ground.
OK, so where am I going with this, you are asking?
When it comes to selling to technical folks, a lot of salespeople feel like that seal being tossed between two orcas. Techies rattle salespeople. In fact, it can be quite a sport for them. The tech folks enjoy asking technical questions about your software system or internet marketing services. It’s tough not to spout what sounds like a canned spiel in response. But, that’s when the techies really get going and start cross-examining us about technical minutiae. So much for a sales conversation and controlling the process. We’ve just been tossed around and deposited back on the sales beach.
While talking with techies can be uncomfortable for most of us, it doesn’t have to be. With a little insight into their mindset, you will find you two have far more similarities than differences. So let’s dive in and see what’s involved.
Here are the first 3 of the 7 tips in this two-part series to help you better connect and sell to techies.
Tip 1 – You are on the outside looking in, until the techies open the door for you. When you prospect manufacturers and engineering-intensive service companies, you are calling on the folks that make the stuff we use each day. This is a unique opportunity to find out how all the technology that supports your quality of life happens. Who wouldn’t be fascinated by an opportunity to learn how packaging design is important when transporting everything from soap to computer chips, or how nuclear sub propellers are manufactured, or to get a better understanding of how washers and dryers are made? Even though you are “selling” to these folks, it’s OK to be interested in the technology of their business. The more you learn, the more comfortable you will be selling to technical companies.
Tip 2 – Do your homework about their technology and industry. Techies don’t like waste of any kind, especially of their time. They are particularly intolerant of salespeople spouting a canned pitch that doesn’t address their needs. Did you do your homework or did you figure the technical aspects of learning about their business are way over your head? Oh stop it! I bet you read up on every new feature of the next iPhone and iPad releases. Don’t tell me you can’t understand, as an end-user, the implications of technology. The more complex you make the situation, the more daunting it can appear to you. Do your homework and translate what you are reading about the prospect’s company and industry into simple terms that can be understood by technical and non-technical folks alike. The techies will appreciate you for it.
Tip 3 – Don’t attempt to have a peer discussion with techies about their technology. Thinking you can throw around a few technical buzz words and establish a peer relationship with techies is like a seal asking to be tossed about by orcas. Techies constantly challenge each other’s knowledge; they will salivate at the chance to test you. Don’t create an opportunity to be discredited as an expert in their field. Instead, work on the area where you are the expert: business development. Stick to your strengths, and acknowledge your weaknesses. If you get to a technical concept you don’t understand, ask the techies to explain it to you. Techies love to explain what they do to people.
From now on, let the orcas sport with the other seals. Do your homework, examine your mindset, and engage technical decision-makers in a productive manner. Soon you will find it easier to talk with and sell to techies. And that means more opportunities for success in today’s globally competitive economy.
Babette Ten Haken is a coach, consultant and speaker. She works with technically-focused companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups, enhancing team performance for cross-functional collaboration and revenue generation. Her popular blog, Sales Aerobics for Engineers® helps bridge the gap between technical and sales/marketing professionals.