Ever think about letting techies loose with your customers? Learning how collaboration with your technical colleagues can positively impact your sales process and close ratio.
I’m not advocating grabbing the nearest available engineer and running out ready-fire-aim to talk to a customer. Do some planning. How will this strategy complement your sales process, skill set and, ultimately, career path and revenue stream?
Here are eight strategies to kick-start deploying your tech team to sell – either with you or on their own. Your tech team remains at the cross-roads of customer conversations and revenue growth, once the business is won and brought in house.
Why not let them in on the dynamics of the front end of their critical role in customer retention?
- Start working with your tech team when you start prospecting. In the world of Sales 2.0, prospecting isn’t opening up the Yellow Pages and dialing for dollars. It involves internet search, CRM tools , database management, and personal discipline. Your tech team thrives on data; they are deep data drillers by nature, even if you aren’t initially. I’d say you both will learn a lot from each other’s approaches to data gathering.
- Create a prospecting specification sheet with your tech team. Techies are used to designing against a set of specifications. Create a template of the ideal customer you should be prospecting. Ask for input from your tech team. They are trained to be skeptical and question your motives. Techies are curious; they want to understand the “why” underlying everything. Instead of being frustrated by their vetting your process, listen to their questions. Ask your own “why” questions: “Why does that aspect of the selling process interest/frustrate you so much? Why do you feel this type of customer is well-suited/poorly suited for our company’s revenue objectives?” Perhaps your sales method needs to take a page from the techie’s-view-of-the-prospecting-process playbook. Techies can’t stand waste and neither should you.
- Talk with your tech team about the goals of your collaborative prospecting activities. Your tech team may provide you with a different spin on how to assess whether your targeted prospects are worth your and their prospecting time. They may have insight on industry and technology trends that can assist you in having a killer first meeting resulting in an invitation for follow up.
- Your tech team can teach you a lot about their science, providing you both can understand each other. Techies are trained to outsmart each other and find loopholes in analyses and thought processes. It’s second nature and necessary to avoid output failure. In order for you to be successful business development partners, techies need to understand that making their knowledge accessible and understandable doesn’t make them look dumb. You need to understand that word choices are extremely important literally to your technical colleagues. Start listening to yourself as you speak to your tech team, and subsequently to your prospects. Do you sound like a stereotypic bubble-headed sales person slinging the lingo or do you sound like someone who is an insightful and knowledgeable resource? Simplifying how you communicate smartens up your selling, regardless of whether you are a techie or a sales type. It’s a differentiator.
- Take your tech team member(s) to your first sales call with prospects, well as to subsequent calls. Traditionally, your tech team is applied-as-needed whenever there is a technical question during the course of the sales process. This status-quo formula means techies are out of the loop most of the time and unfamiliar with the dynamics and personalities involved in the sale. Debrief on what you both heard and how to improve the quality of the conversation. Have the techie make the next prospecting call. Listen to the quality of the conversation. You may hear something that impacts your own approach. Go for a hybridized approach – it makes both of you more robust professionals.
- Techies need to understand that the object of a sales conversation isn’t to sell or problem solve. Prospective customers desire information and knowledge about industry and technology trends. Your tech team gives you the edge over your competition – providing that you don’t switch gears and go into sales mode the minute the prospect relaxes with you. The objective of utilizing your tech team to sell involves both of you providing checks and balances against your mutual tendencies to rush the process and either: a) sell; or b) solve. Bridge the gap and collaborate rather than perpetuate these stereotypes.
- Practice your conversations with your tech team partner. If an engineer ever thought they would have to sell (a four-letter word to techies), they never would have gone into engineering. Just like you, your tech team is used to communicating with peers. Prospects may or may not be peers. These dialogues need to engage the folks with the money to hire your company. Your prospects, tech team, or you may not speak English as your first language. So slow down, choose your words carefully and use normal, human, real-life language.
- Share information on all ongoing customer conversations and technical insights pertaining to your prospect. Continue to collaborate with your tech team throughout the entire sales process. Once the business is won and comes in-house, your tech team remains your eyes and ears for identifying future opportunities for growing that won business. Shadow them for a day, and vice versa, so that each of you not only starts to understand each other’s “world” but becomes comfortable in a cross-functional business development environment.
What customer wouldn’t want to work with a team offering value and insight like yours?
Babette Ten Haken works with technically-focused companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups, enhancing team performance for revenue generation. Her popular blog, Sales Aerobics for Engineers® helps bridge the gap between technical and sales/marketing professionals.