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Business of Software 2008 - Selling 101

Business of SoftwareI'm starting a series of blog posts from the Business of Software conference that I attended last week in Boston. If you are part of a small technology business (software, hardware, etc.), especially if you are an owner, I'd highly recommend that you attend this conference next year. It's small, 250 or so people, and everyone is interested in business. It's not a lot about technology, but it's inspiring and exciting to talk about business with lots of people looking to build their businesses.

I wasn't sure what to make of this session when it started. Paul Kenney, a sales trainor from the UK, was giving a talk on selling 101. Since I am like most of the geeks out there, and don't like selling, it was good to hear Paul take a different approach. He talked to us at our level and I think won a few people over. I know he won me over.

Paul started by having everyone stand up. No one wanted to, but his enthusiasm got us up. He then asked a series of questions, having us sit down if we disagreed (or agreed, can't remember now). In any case, he asked some standard things like "who likes being sold to", "who could sell something they believe in" and a few more. The answers are probably what you expect: most of us don't like selling or salesman.

Paul then proceeded to say that he thinks we haven't encountered many good salesman. He then told us that a salesman can really help you, but they have to be properly trained. I was skeptical, as you probably were, but Paul won me over. He gave a few examples that really helped.

The first was a doctor situation where a new drug was being marketed to help people with osteoperosis. The drug was more effective with fewer side effects, but also more expensive. Insurance companies didn't want to pay for it, and doctors had ot prescribe it. In showing the literature and test results, most salesman weren't effective. A few were, and the doctors and patients were very pleased with the results. What was different?

Paul asked us and people had theories, but the result was that those salesman made it personal. Rather than framing the drug as it will help some people, or old people, they framed it as "it will help Mary, your 70 year old patient." By showing the results to specific people, the doctors were more willing to listen.

Playing on emotions? A bit, but also framing the product correctly. Sometimes people are too busy, even to hear about something that is beneficial and a salesman helps facilitate a good dialog. A second example about a hightly specialized piece of drilling equipment showed a similar result. Even though companies needed a lot of expertise to use the product, a good salesman helped.

From there Paul talked a bit about finding the right salesman. He stressed the need for training, but also that you need different salesman for different types of sales. As the sales cycle becomes longer and more involved, you need a more skilled salesman. There ended up being 3 types he sees, the ones that can close quickly and take orders (low skill, low complexity). A medium skilled one that can get to know customers and make them feel confortable, but doesn't take forever to close, and then a long term salesman that can work with customers over a year or two to close a deal. It takes different people to do those jobs.  A long term salesman in a short term situation doesn't know how to close quickly and move on (or let the deal go).

It was an interesting talk, especially for the end of the day slot just before happy hour. I think people really enjoyed it and I let Neil know that Paul is a speaker to bring back next year. If you need sales training, he's at www.oceanlearning.co.uk

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Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


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