Note from the editor: With a combined tenure of 300+ years, Lewan Technology's leadership team not only has an in-depth knowledge of the technology industry, but also the insight, methodology, philosophy and lessons learned behind leading a successful business. Below is a piece written by our VP of Business Consulting, Todd Johnson, that I think any salesperson, manager or executive can relate to and take away from!
I've worked in IT for decades, but the three years I had a “real job” (non-consulting) might have been the most valuable.
When I sat on the other side of the table, I observed technology salesperson after salesperson struggle to relate their offerings to my business. The final straw was an unsolicited proposal for services I didn’t ask for or need. I thought, "Really? Does anyone buy this way? The audacity!”
Since then, I vowed to always consider my clients’ needs over what I had to offer if I ever moved back into the provider realm (which I did).
The struggle of a salesperson to put themselves in the shoes of a client is not uncommon, though. After all, what do a client’s shoes feel like?
Consider the adage, “The goals of a CEO are to make money, save money, and stay out of an orange jumpsuit.”
If this is at least partially true, and the CEO's goals should proliferate across the business, what does this mean for a technology salesperson with a goal to uncover, even anticipate, a client's needs?
Make Money. Where does my revenue come from? How do I maximize productivity (and minimize inhibitors) for the employees critical to this revenue? How do I grow revenue, and what support is required as I scale the business?
Save Money. What are my primary cost drivers, and how do I balance efficiency and effectiveness? How do I maximize productivity for back-office staff? How do I optimize my investments; people, technology, facilities? What do I do during a business downturn?
Stay Out of an Orange Jumpsuit. OK, a bit extreme, but still consider...what are my primary business risks and how do I approach accepting, accounting for or mitigating them? What compliance requirements do I have, and how do I ensure "clean" audits? What are my security concerns, and how do I avoid a bright suit being my "new wardrobe"?
So now that you’re thinking like a CEO, what’s next?
If you're in technology sales, get over the concept that you know technology and it's the client's responsibility to connect the dots between what you sell and their business needs. It's your job.
Now you need to determine how this changes your approach - how you prepare, who you call on, what you talk about, and how the overall sales process changes.
- How you prepare. Study the industry and main lines of business, where revenue comes from and major costs. Learn about the types of workers employed, how they do their jobs, and their typical technology requirements. Are they mobile? Do they have an office at home? Is technology critical to their job?
- Who you call on and what you talk about. If you're talking to someone outside of IT, use the language of the business and avoid technical jargon. Read body language to ensure you avoid going down the IT vortex. Talk about their business and consider the IT impacts and possible solutions.
If you're with someone in IT, help them focus on positive business impacts to ensure business value from IT investments. This has a side benefit in helping them with career longevity. And don't worry...you'll always have time for talking tech!
- How the sales process changes. In terms of timing, it will take longer to get to the solution you'll propose but once there, your sales cycle will actually shorten. In terms of approval, if you've made yourself relevant to their business, you'll be more involved in the process and less an outsider waiting to hear the "yes" or "no" decision.
Be relevant. Help your clients succeed. Think like a CEO.
How can you or your team grow from "thinking like a CEO"? What other CEO principles are important for a salesperson to embody?