Top 4 Sales Challenges in Mid Size Technology Firms

Reading time 4 mins. If you are a CEO or entrepreneur of a mid-sized technology firm, this article is for you.

Well, here are some interesting facts from the field.

I met a tech entrepreneur with USD 20 million in revenue loose USD 4 million in a bad channel selection decision! This mistake hit him deep and will take a long time before it leaves his psyche!!

Met another CEO of a mid-sized cloud technology firm not have any faith in his sales team. Sales team comprised of freshers and seniors who were demonstrating deep insecurities on one side and lack of capability on the other.

So how do we define sales challenges of a mid-sized technology company?

Should we categorize it as people, competency and process issue? Or as something else?

To begin with, Mid-sized technology firms come in many shapes and sizes. Some are old players (survived for 10+ years), some are family businesses, and some are relatively new entrants in their field (eg: born in the cloud service providers).

Based on what I have observed in the field let me classify the challenges into 5 types:

 

1. People Challenges

In most of the small to mid-sized tech firms, business is usually driven by one of two lone wolf superstars.

Sometimes, it’s the owner himself or herself drives sales. He or she generates business through sheer determination and drive. He is the key account manager, mainly aware of all major deals. This star is not just great at selling he is great at ensuring customer orders are serviced and is also probably the best in sales operations. The sales success of the business is synonymous with the great sales person the sales superstar is.

In other cases, the entrepreneur is the domain expert and relies on lone wolves to run sales. This is far more dangerous as the entrepreneur has less control over customers and will have to be always on his toes to watch what is happening in the field.

Mid-sized tech businesses usually have a problem in retaining great sales talent. Due to lack of a clear plan to attract and build great sales people, they are mostly training ground for many salespeople before they move to greener pastures.

Over time, the company becomes gets into a vicious cycle of hiring and losing salespeople.

Both these situations are not scalable and unfortunately any small to mid-sized business has to go through this phase. Well, here are a few ways in which this situation can be de-risked and managed.

  1. Find a way to systematize sales process. Without a process that can be monitored and managed, it is difficult to have a handle on the sales cycle.
  2. The entrepreneur should definitely understand selling and should be comfortable about selling cycles though he or she may not be responsible for sales function. It is highly recommended that the leader sit in key sales meetings and understand to interpret sales KPIs such as leading and lagging indicators.
  3. The leader should plan to put together a people plan where there is enough control in on-boarding new sellers and get them to be productive as soon as possible. This is so important as in selling time to revenue is the key.
  4. If there are still struggles, hire a company like Agility Nexus that specializes in installing a sales system in your company. Paying for this services so worth it.

 

2. Go to Market Issues

Selling a $20/user/month SaaS product is lot different from selling a $50,000 Salesforce Automation services.

It’s foolish to travel across the country for an in-person demonstration to sell a $20/user SaaS product! Likewise, it’s foolish to expect an Enterprise client to commit to a $50,000 platform by simply visiting your website and entering their credit card details.

Clearly, each of these has a different Go To Market approach for which for which the ‘Customer Acquisition Cost‘ (CAC) has to fall in line with the revenue it generates.

Depending on CAC, sales models can range from freemium, web sales, online sales, inbound selling, channel selling, outbound centric selling to direct field sales force sales.

Getting this mix is so important to reach the market. If the leader makes a mistake in GTM then the business burns cash and is set back by few quarters.

Let’s see how this can be mitigated?

  1. Come out with a well defined GTM strategy for your product and market.
  2. Structure your selling team in line with your GTM strategy.
  3. Structure your selling approach and selling cost in line with your revenue strategy.
  4. Structure sales compensation in line with your GTM strategy.
  5. Choose and apply the right prospecting process that is line with your GTM approach.
  6. Tweak your product prices in line with your GTM approach.
  7. If you need help in any of these areas, do seek help from a company, say Agility Nexus, that is focussed on helping you accelerate sales and shorten time to revenue.

3. Sales Process Challenges

I asked on of the mid-sized tech CEOs as to if he has a sales methodology or process to guide a sale?

Pat came the answer. “We have installed Salesforce CRM”.

Many mid-sized companies have implemented a CRM system like Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce or Hubspot and think that they have a sales process! This is absolutely a wrong assumption.

Even in mature mid-sized firms, there is a lack of awareness as to how their ideal customers buy stuff! A lot is left to chance. While a good 40% are focussed the rest of them still follow ‘spray and pray’ approach when it comes to a selling process.

Any selling process should begin with an understanding of how your customers buy. You have to know what’s most important to them, how they evaluate new products and services, how and when they allocate budget, who needs to be involved, how decision are made, how terms and deals are negotiated, etc.

Knowing how the customer buys gives you the ability to map your sales process with the buying process of the prospects.

Let’s see how your sales process can be aligned to speed up ‘time to revenue’?

  1. Understand who your ideal customer and buyer persona is?
  2. Understand how they buy? What steps do they take before they are willing to spend money?
  3. This includes how they evaluate new products and services, how and when they allocate budget, who needs to be involved, how decision are made, how terms and deals are negotiated, etc.
  4. Now design a sales process in any CRM system in line with your customer buying process with right gates to check deal progress.
  5. If you have doubts about establishing this, do give us a call. We might be able to help you.

 

4. Sales Competency Challenges

Finally, mid-sized technology companies should realize that the way customers want to be engaged by sellers (or selling cycle) has changed a lot in 2018.

With customers having more control over the sales process than ever before, salespeople must be able to engage them at every point in the buying cycle.

This reality is reflected in survey responses that identified several stages where first interactions with customers can take place: the prospecting stage, when identifying customer needs, when forming product or service solutions, when delivering the pitch, when closing the sale, and even during the follow-up stage.

The results suggest that salespeople must be skilled at both identifying a customer’s stage in the sales cycle and effectively engaging customers at every stage. They need to possess the sales competencies to establish rapport, initiate a dialogue, understand customer needs, position the solution, negotiate and close, and maintain the relationship.

Only by leveraging these competencies can salespeople move the customer from one stage to the next.

This is where training and coaching your salespeople to be precise and productive becomes very important.

If you don’t train, you don’t gain.

 

Let’s see how you can make your sales team effective and get results:

  1. Tailor the right training program for them to lift their game. It should be a targetted intervention led by a trainer from the industry who understands the skills needed to get the job done. Generic training won’t cut the bill.
  2. Further sellers should be coached over a period of time, say a quarter, to correct their mistakes and sharpen their skills to engage clients and win deals.
  3. If you don’t have the in-house capability and need someone from the technology industry with experience in training hundreds of technology sellers, click on the banner below.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions in each of these topics, do give us a shout. We are a full cycle sales company that helps mid-sized technology companies simplify selling and win more deals.

Happy selling.

 

Is Your Sales Team Bridging The Value Gap?

If you are a sales leader, I am sure you are hearing a lot of these from your sellers right now.

“Clients are indecisive. They can’t make up their mind. They are not ready for cloud”.

“I have qualified the deal but client stakeholders are not moving the opportunity. Analytics is not top priority”.

“I thought they wanted sales force automation. Got the right signals. But now it’s dragging beyond reasons I can’t fathom”.

I often hear salespeople and sales leaders express their frustration with not getting deals closed or their inability to get prospects to move through the sales cycle.

Deals get stuck for lots of reasons, one of the big ones is because no one is finding the value gap or measuring the gap. If clients are not able to experience the ‘value gap‘ between the place they currently are and the place they want to go, there is no incentive for a change.

It does not matter if you are selling Analytics, a new transaction platform, digital stack, a version of cloud technology or state of the art Cognitive AI.

If you miss the value gap, technology is just a moot point.

The value gap influences everything. The bigger the gap the greater the return. Big gaps can also mean greater complexity, more change, and more money. The smaller the gap, the smaller the return.

Whether customers or prospects are aware or not, the gap plays a heavy role in their decision to buy or not, as well as how they buy. Do they move quickly or slowly? Do they get a lot of people involved or no one involved? The value gap can’t be ignored.

 

To identify the value gap requires a solid understanding of where the customer is today,

  • What is their current state?
  • What are the current frustrations?
  • What are they doing now?
  • Why they do them that way?
  • What the current outcomes are
  • What is the impact to the organization?
  • Who is affected

The next part is to understand where they want to go tomorrow,

  • Where do they want to go/be?
  • How should their tomorrow be?
  • What should they be doing tomorrow?
  • Why do they want to do them that way?
  • What are the new expected outcomes?
  • Whats the new impact to the organization?
  • Who benefits?

In fact, the value gap should be addressed as part of your go-to-market strategy where you clearly identify the value perception of your customer segment and incorporate in your product roadmap and marketing messages as well.

When you’re selling, your team should focus on the value gap and target the impact. The value gap is what influences how people buy. The value gap creates the baseline or the comparison from what we have to today to what we’ll have tomorrow.

Is your sales team trained to dig deep and discover value gaps? Do you zone in on value gaps in your cadence meetings? Are you finding ways to bring the value gaps and make it part of your win plans?

If not, do it right away. Else your deals will stall in the pipe and might not even move forward an inch.

Why Poor Enablement Leads To Sales People Failing?

There has been much written and discussed on how sales people fail themselves. Totally agree. But then there is another side to the story.

Poor sales enablement by the company!

Yes! Sales people fail because their company fails them. It happens all the time. The only difference between when sales people fail themselves vs when sales people fail because of their company — the company rarely gets blamed.

Often times there is no revenue strategy that drives go to market plans, product, marketing and sales function.

I have seen these situations a lot around me. When it happens and it’s a crying shame.

Sales people are only part of a two part system to drive sales. Sales people are the tip of the spear, they are the executors and if they aren’t doing the right things, nothing is getting done. With that said, the company has a job too, and if they aren’t doing their job, it doesn’t matter how good sales is, ain’t nothing gonna happen.

Sales people fail because they company fails them and when the company fails them the isn’t doing some or all of these things;

  1. There is no solid revenue strategy and a ‘Go to Market’ plan
  2. The business model no longer fits the market
  3. Poor territory development
  4. Poor sales process and review mechanisms
  5. They don’t provide a good competitive product. In 2018, it’s all about providing business outcomes.
  6. They aren’t providing solid sales support (enablement)
  7. They don’t have a solid on boarding process
  8. They have unrealistic quotas
  9. They don’t provide adequate training
  10. The have horrible hiring practices
  11. They don’t have a sales culture through out the entire company
  12. They lack sales leadership
  13. They don’t listen to the sales people
  14. No lead development
  15. Weak sales messaging
  16. Lack of market understanding
  17. Slow product upgrades, improvements
  18. High prices
  19. Weak marketing department
  20. They micro manage
  21. No room for failure
  22. Too much room for failure (never make quota, and still have a job)
  23. Bad talent management
  24. No coaching
  25. Poor communication
  26. It’s political and bureaucratic
  27. Over zealous legal
  28. Unrealistic expectations
  29. Can’t deliver product, they can’t implement
  30. Crappy customer service
  31. Poor customer retention
  32. Not enough tools (salesforce automation, CRM’s, etc.)
  33. Don’t embrace social media
  34. Don’t recognize it’s 2018 NOT 2002!

This is one long list of ways sales people fail, because of their company.

It’s too easy to blame the sales person or the sales team for falling revenue, for poor sales results, but before we do, we need to take a good long look at the company. Is it providing the sales team with what it needs to crush it? Often times, the answer is no.

It’s time companies become accountable for sales success and failure as much as the sales individuals.

How does your company stack up?

If you want a top-notch sales organization, hire top-notch sales people AND then give them everything they need to be successful, which starts with avoiding EVERYTHING on this list.

Yes, companies CAN be the reason sales people fail.

Good Stress Vs Bad Stress in Selling

Sellers often chase targets and try to achieve sales objectives in their job. Often they succumb to burn outs, lows and struggle to get back. Once they understand how to think about ‘thinking stress‘ they are better off in managing any situation.

In this clip, I talk about the difference between good and bad stress.

 

B4B Sales Agility Workshop at S&I Systems

It was fantastic to see sellers at S&I System make an intentional mind shift and ready to move from SLA driven features and function selling to business outcomes and experiences. In the digital era where continuous value is being created everyday, both ‘Interactive Competence‘ and ‘Value Discovery‘ are two important skills that will separate a Sales Rockstar from the average order taker.
Best wishes to the team to scale new heights and to achieve your sales objectives in 2018!

Can Small Technology Players beat the Big Guys?

Happy Chinese New Year folks.

 

Over the past year, I have been talking to many CEOs of small and mid sized technology companies in South East Asia. One of their top concern is to win profitable deals and capture higher value with big clients.

 

But then the other concern was that big tech vendors have been incumbents in large accounts taking a lion share of the client budget. So do small and mid sized tech vendors have a chance? The answer is a big YES.

 

 

Here is why?

 

Be Conscious, Not Compulsive in Selling

(Reading time 4 mins. In 2017, let’s be conscious, not be compulsive and mindless in chasing growth. It works.)

 

2016. Oh, what a year it was! An interesting cocktail of emotionally charged outcomes.

 

To quote a few notable ones – Rise of populism, shift in geo politics and power, $3.3 trillion of takeovers chasing growth, AI coming of age, self driving cars, fake news, Oil play, shipping bankruptcy, people going gaga over ‘Pokemon Go’, attacks in Brussels & Nice, Aleppo and a fast changing world innovating and disrupting at a rapid clip.

 

Without judging anything that has happened let me ask you a question?

 

How did 2016 make you FEEL?

 

Did you feel empowered or disillusioned? Only you know the answer.

 

In my case, I am coming out of 2016 with mixed feelings.

 

Whichever way I look at it, I am quite sure that we are being setup for one hell of a ride. It’s not going to be smooth, predictable and remotely uninteresting.

 

It could jolt some of us, throw many of us into realms of new opportunities or challenges and even force us to step out of our comfort zones. For people in sales profession, 2017 is definitely a make or break year.

 

This is a nice segue to ask the next question.

 

As sellers, what do you think you will need to be successful in 2017 and beyond?

 

To get your thoughts going I will make my case to this question in 3 parts:

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B4B Selling loves customer experience

(Reading time 4 mins. Why should you switch your sales philosophy?)

Finally, after years of pounding clients with calls, email blasts, intrusions, ads, campaigns, challenges, push and shove, inbound, outbound, cross sell, up sell, driving growth at any cost – we have reached a point of overwhelm and started talking about customer experience!

The part where a customer happily engages and does business with you.

What goes around comes around. No getting away from that.

Some are even calling customer experience as ‘the future of selling‘. I feel like laughing when the industry coined the term customer experience. Isn’t it a basic human need to feel safe in a transaction, not be overwhelmed or be obligated when we don’t want to?

First we abuse the system and now come up with an antidote. We end up giving it names such as customer experience, voice of the customer, etc. How weird!

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Why B4B Selling is the way to go?

(Reading time 3-4 minutes. Bet, it will make you think)

Don’t get swayed by the acronym. There is much more than what meets the eye.

 

If you sit back and ponder over the key points in this message, I am sure, as a seller you will resonate with the idea. It might touch you somewhere deep and possibly make you even uncomfortable with what you do today.

 

Before you go any further, I strongly recommend you to read my previous note “B2B is Dead. B4B is Born“. This will set the right context and frame.

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