Monday, October 15, 2012

Stop Selling !

Recently I had interesting discussions with a couple of “technology experts” separately brought in by their respective companies to help us design the best possible solutions. There was no correlation between the two opportunities or the technologies that represented the solutions; the behavior of the experts representing very large companies was indistinguishable like they were twins separated in early childhood but grew up to mimic each other in their approach to providing a solution to an opportunity.

After months of “engaging” on various opportunities to create new innovative differentiators for the enterprise with many vendors, the narrowed down list comprising the two vendors decided to bring in their technology architects. They needed to hear the expectation from the horse’s mouth and clarify the requirement before proposing the solution. I do not believe the problem or the solution is relevant here but the overall approach, methodology and intent is the focus; so I will restrict to the human side.

Now when you have a set of experts in the room, the expectation changes; for the benefit of everyone I repeated the proposition and outlined the need and the want. Everyone nodded and the expert asked a few pertinent as well as tangential questions. Addressing them and moving on to the framework of solution design the patience level of my team started waning until the experts decided to present the final solution using a set of slides. Very quickly the dam broke and …

The experts knew the subject and how their solution works, its limitations in real life situations. The discussion and clarifications were to validate if the solution would fit in, which is fair. Having said this, the direction the dialogue took was totally different. Instead of working with the team to flesh out the solution, the experts started a sales pitch on why we should choose their solution ! Any interruptions were brushed aside with an air of “I know what is best for you and let me tell you why”.

The relationship managers sensed the total disconnect and tried to intervene without success. The experts in overdrive mode bulldozed ahead ignoring body language and voices of protest. It took some effort to close the meeting which was making no sense or headway. Trying some steps in damage control, the account managers separately mentioned that they will revert to the team with options to take the initiative ahead.

With no acceptance or alignment of the solution a discussion on the Bill of Material (BoM) is a sheer waste of everyone’s collective time. The ROI or TCO matters only when the customer acknowledges that the solution is appropriate for the enterprise. You don’t sell until you know that your solution has acceptance and that it meets requirements and business goals. Was the need to sell so desperate that they risked alienating a reference customer or professional arrogance that consummates such behavior ?

In the current economic scenario the pressure to sell is evident on almost every company; that does not condone such tactics and behaviors  their pervasiveness scares me. I believe that vendors need to work with their customers to evolve any solutions and gracefully walk away should there be a stretch to fit their wares. It would be an undesirable situation where their key customer the CIO is not willing to come to the table or shuns these meetings. Maybe it is time to start exploring vendor-IT-business alignment ?

Stop Selling Part 2


  1. Good Article. Take #CRM it has been destroyed in India because they tried to position it as a replacement for "Sales" and tried to sell it as "Sales Solutions" rather than a tool helping the organization or what the acronym stands for. Every Technology and IT tools is destroyed by promoting it wrongly. In spite of it, when the companies understand and buy it works. I wish the technology solutions guy hire domain experts to go and sell rather than sell themselves. Such people could develop this vendor-IT-Biz alignment.

  2. Vendors can do better if they work with their customers.

  3. Excellent point, Arun.

    Not just with IT Vendors alone, I have experienced the same with even HR vendors too. While the engagement starts with big claims like "We just dont sell, we understand you and then offer what best suits you" etc., most of the times what I have experienced is they dont even understand what I am looking for and will ultimately end up as a sales pitch.

  4. Excellent Article,

    Based on long experience of working with various vendor for various business solution, a common factor which I noticed is, pre-sales and sales team of any vendor always tried to pitch the solutions claiming that they understand over all requirements and in meeting they tries to push the solution on the business. Most of the time this kind of meeting ended with dates of next meeting and so on - so forth.

    The real pain for the business is, limited / half knowledge of vendor team regarding the business their processes, practices and regulations. Industries like Pharma, BFSI, FMCG demand high level of understanding regarding process, practice and regulations, which can be gained only by working closely in these industries. In which most of the vendor houses are lacking.

    The best way to sell the solutions for industry specific requirements would be involving domain experts in pre-sales team and utilizing their knowledge to map business requirement and available solution instead of warping the solution on the requirement (claiming they understand the requirement very well). Vendor companies really need to understand and apply this to minimize overall efforts of business and Vendor Company to close the deal (after too many round of discussions) and to maximize business possibilities.