Has IT Selling Lost its Way?

sales-personI have been involved in IT sales since 1986. I have watched the quality of sales people take a marked turn from sales people who bring tremendous value to a customer to today, where they are driven by motivations other than helping their client.

Sales people I have either managed or interacted with only seem to “follow” rather than lead and do not want to champion for the client. Don’t get me wrong, a highly motivated rep wanting to make a lot of money is a good thing. However, the ones who are really making a lot of money, year in and year out, are those who choose to put the client’s needs first and foremost. The money trail just follows.

What’s on the truck, Gus?

CIO’s and senior management quickly tune out, or as I see it, slip into a coma, when they inevitably hear the “pitchman” profess the virtues of what was announced today. It will change your life, Mr. Client, honest! Rather than consult with the client, they stand on their various soap boxes believing someone really cares.

Customers have many more choices today than they ever have. It is common to see multiple technology vendors sharing a space within the clients business. Clients want this, vendors and sales people should want this. Some sales people are driven to want to shame their competitors. Clients find this approach appalling.

Is sales management to blame for this behaviour?

Customers are accustomed to hearing the complaints from sales people, of how they really need to make their quota. Who cares, I say. It is not about you but the customer. The more we sound desperate, the more the client will distance themselves from this behaviour or beat margins to silly levels, and this way nobody wins. The client does not win because his sales person gave up more than he wanted to and may be less inclined to really help when the client needs the help. The seller does not win because his client has seen behaviour that was personally driven rather than client driven.

Management puts undue pressure on sellers to do silly things. Why? Share price? Management bonus? What? It makes no sense. It is time to SLOW DOWN!

Customers want…..

People who they can trust. I know you’ve heard this. Hear it again. If a client knows their interests are put first, the sale will happen and all is well. Listen more to what the pains are rather than trying to determine what this person is going to buy THIS QUARTER.

Show them value rather than taking them to lunch or drinks. Customers want advocates for their needs not order takers. Bring them something they can relate to.

Let’s not overuse the term “value” and start to mean it when we sell. Get to know them. They are just like you and I. It is not magic!

Have you seen a change in the way sales people need to approach their customers? Comment below and let me know your thoughts about the ways selling to the I.T. industry have changed.


About johnjblair

John J. Blair is the President and CEO of Blair Technology Solutions responsible for technology, innovation, and providing customized IT strategies to strengthen operations for enterprises across various industry verticals. His reputation is renowned as a results-driven leader, whose effective team-building skills and strategic development expertise have helped his clients achieve IT business success with cost-effective solutions. With almost 35 years in the IT industry, John has established a highly skilled team with expertise in providing personalized and customized IT solutions to a variety enterprises across Canada. Under his tutelage, his company is committed to customer service excellence, providing IT professional technicians to support the ongoing growth and needs of any IT department. Always on the leading edge of emerging technologies, John entered into the Managed Services field early and developed a Managed Services division under the Blair brand. John holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Concordia University and has many industry certifications.
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One Response to Has IT Selling Lost its Way?

  1. tfburton says:

    John, I agree with you that in general, the level of IT sales people today seems to have diminished. To be fair, we should also recognize that when you and I were first knocking on doors in this industry, IT market was in a period of rapid expansion where the vendors and sellers were in the drivers seat and customers were relatively unsophisticated about the technology. The result was higher profits for vendors, more risk for buyers, and maybe a little more tolerance for hit and run sales styles. Today IT sales people are operating in a market that is very mature. The technology itself is a commodity and vendor loyalty is largely out the window. If a sales rep is continuing to sell the technology he or she is condemning themselves to a slow death from lack of value-based differentiation in the eyes of buyers.

    Your comment “slow down” is very appropriate I think. The only ROI an IT reseller is likely to see in the current and future market will be from time, effort, and value invested in customer relationships. This does not happen quickly, but the more a sales person or business is completely invested in that relationship and trust, the the more invested the customer is in them. It’s a relationship of mutual trust and genuine concern for the other party’s well-being and success. If done right, the customer should be as concerned about maintaining your profitability as you are. After all, in an environment where the alternative is a series of box pushers, it’s in the customer’s best interests to have a capable technology partner that is profitable and going to be around to help them maintain their competitive advantage over the price shoppers who buy and hope for the best.

    All of this is easier said than done of course. The vendors will always be enslaved by the 13 week Wall Street dictated business cycle. The arbitrary pressure to book a sale before it’s fully baked is not changing anytime soon. On the buying side, the implementation of formal purchasing processes seems to be designed to eliminate the possibility of ‘salespersonship’ from the equation. However, I believe that even with these obstacles in place, the business buyer will always, quite rightfully, shape the formal requirements of an RFP to favour the best solution for the enterprise. That best solution will almost always have been articulated by their most trusted technology partner. That partner will have earned that privilege through their congruence and commitment to the custom’s best interests over the long term.

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