Techies rattle salespeople. In fact, it can be quite a sport for them. Technical professionals enjoy asking what they feel are provocative questions about your products, services, and platforms. It’s tough not to spout what sounds like a canned spiel in response. It’s your fear response taking over from your listening logically response. The more they sense your fear is when the techies seem to really get going and start cross-examining us about technical minutiae. So much for a sales conversation and controlling the business development process.
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. This post is the second in a two-part series entitled: 7 Tips for Selling to Techies.
Tip 4 – You are a sales expert, not their technical peer. Techies avoid business development at all costs. Why? Because the concept of selling makes techies just as uncomfortable as talking to techies makes you feel! Let this insight temper the flow of your sales conversation. Keep it comfortable and educational. You don’t need to impress techies with how much you know about their technology. (You can’t!) You do need to educate them about your sales process. Explain why you are asking questions. Let them know you have done your homework and have questions and ideas about what you’ve learned. Share the trends you’ve observed across your customers. Techies love to learn. You can give them a peek outside their own walls into the broader world of the competitive global market. Now that’s valuable.
Tip 5 – Tell them why you selected to call on them. I’ve found being straightforward with technical accounts can be disarming, probably because most emails and voicemails sound canned and robotic. I called on a prospect for several months before one of the partners picked up the phone. Expecting to get voicemail for the umpteenth time, I was a bit taken aback when I heard his voice! I gushed out: “I’ve been calling on you for the past two months because I’m fascinated by your technology and how you’ve applied it to all sorts of products I never imagined. I told myself, ‘This is a company I want to work with.’!” I got the appointment and landed the account. We learned from each other. The techies perceived me as a trusted partner. I can’t tell you how many times the technical acumen I gained from this one account has allowed me to identify needs for new customers.
Tip 6 – Establish a common denominator for your conversations and expertise. In tech or engineering companies the decision-maker is probably a technical professional who morphed into a businessperson. They have to address day-to-day and long term operational and revenue aspects of their business. That’s your common denominator. As you earn their trust, they will teach you more about their business model and industry challenges. Techies like data, even if it’s soft. Discuss how their company compares, and contrasts, with the rest of the companies you call on. Business owners and decision-makers want to know about the dynamics of the marketplace. Gaining expertise in these topics allows you to have a peer discussion and provide relevant value to your customers.
Tip 7 – The most important hurdles to overcome are your own biases and stereotypes. Techies are perceived as Dilbert® personas: they stick to their own kind, talk in a monotone, use large words to explain themselves, and make non-techies feel dumb. Salespeople are perceived as smarmy, dime-a-dozen, manipulative talking heads who memorize sales scripts and regurgitate them at sales calls. How were these two stereotypes formed? In most companies, sales folks and techies are separated in divisional silos creating Us vs. Them mindset. By taking some time to identify how your own mindset creates obstacles to selling to techies, you will discover how to showcase your sales expertise to those who need it.
From now on, let the techies work over your competitors instead of you. 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.
What are your experiences when selling to technical professionals?
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.