Great technology, awesome product, analysts love it, sales suck.

In todays technology driven world this appears to be a rapidly increasing problem.

When engaging quite a broad spectrum of clients or just talking to somebody at an event the response to the question :

“Tell me what you can do for me?” is readily answered with statements quoted directly from a product specifications sheet in their hand.

While ‘we provide SDN capable equipment that can dynamically apply QoS profiles to your network by application” is pretty informative for the technical or heart, for the majority of prospects this type of response really doesn’t get to the WIIFM (What’s in it for me). my response is :

‘Do your prospects really understand what you do and how you can help them based on what you told me?’

… and then I start positioning our go-to-market services with them.

Getting back on point, it’s hardly surprising the sales/revenue is not quite what is to be expected/wanted even though all people in the know at the company may sing the praises of a new service offering or product when they cannot communicate the true end-user value proposition in a way that makes sense.

In this post I’ll walk-through identifying some of the problem areas and providing a basic outline how to address them, while this will not going solve all your problems it’ll provide a basis upon which to get started on the process of increasing momentum.

So what can we do about this?

When bringing to market a new technology or service is important to remember that the months or years of effort you have invested into developing the
product have enabled you and the rest of the team to develop a deep understanding of your offering, the technology behind it and what you originally believed the customers would find attractive.

The thing is, by launching this new service without taking the time to develop a complete
go-to-market strategy and implementation plan it is inevitable that the target audience will not grasp what you what you offer.

But the industry analysts our product?

Where that may be the case, it is highly likely the industry analysts you are speaking to have taken the time to research the technology and spoken to your competitors. Also during the development cycle you would have monitored your competitors and the industry at large, then tuned your perceived value proposition during funding rounds and analyst briefings to ensure differentiation in their eyes – otherwise getting more money would have been a problem.

"Industry analysts, typically have an understanding of the benefits for what you are bringing to market probably before you do” remember they are already several steps ahead of your potential client from an educational perspective.

The media and trade press gets it to!

In some cases this maybe true, however if you think about the short period of time the you spend in an interview with a reporter or a technical writer, you can easily be misled into thinking they totally get it. In this case the person you are talking to is very skilled at what they do, they may have done some research before just like the analysts and they know how to ask the right questions to extract explanations to things you do not understand. However what they are looking for is a story so they know the right questions to ask and get you to provide answers that will resonate with their audience. If you did your job well, when you read the article you will find your story and it will read almost like you were telling with a twist towards the writers own personality. This doesn't necessarily mean they understand everything you told them, or that the audience draw the same conclusions you do.

So what are you saying the customers are dumb?

Ask yourself this - How many times when working with the end customer have they asked you to explain how your stuff works? Not very often in my experience.

In many cases customers are pretty good listeners, they may not understand what you saying and in my experience I have seen them sit across the table and stare blankly while a sales person works their way through a presentation. Because they're listening or appear to be paying attention doesn't necessarily mean they get it. Then at the end of the presentation they may ask educated questions (usually driven by something a competitor has told them).

It doesn't mean that dumb - it means as a supplier when you commenced this journey of development you may have understood what your clients were looking for then and more than likely at this stage you are
speaking your own language, not theirs.

How do you get clients to understand how useful our stuff is ?

Get out there and listen!

Start by understanding your customer’s challenges and needs, do your research, take an outside in approach and put yourself in their shoes. If this is something you find a challenge engage an outside consultant or just ask your customers / prospects directly – avoid heavily technical discussions if at all possible and focus on understanding their business and it’s needs first.

Now what?

Reassess what you have, see what fits if not fix-it!

Identify the key points you have learned such as, what do your typical client(s) businesses do (get quite deep if you target a specific vertical or segment), their challenges and needs. Now evaluate the materials you have, the messages you are using - basically all the sales and marketing collateral. Remove all introductory waffle, technical blurb etc. and get straight to the problems/challenges and ensure it clearly identifies how your solution addresses the business needs at a minimum from business and technical standpoint.
Now get everyone in your business on the same page and start talking to your customers –
in their language not yours!
This is just a start, there is a lot more to developing a comprehensive, agile
go-to-market strategy and messaging than tweaking web sites, presentations, sales and marketing collateral – but this is a good place to start.
Bonus: Really successful firms introducing new go-to-market technologies/services take the additional step of establishing a sales enablement program that starts internally and branches out into channels and onto the end-clients. A program like this ensures the target audience really understands what is being introduced by teaching them the basics of the technology - just ensure you cover off any detailed technicalities independently from the commercial areas before bringing them together.
Don’t forget – this approach isn’t a one-off, it is a continuous cycle regardless of if you make a change to the offering or introduce a new product – or not.
Just as you turnover staff, clients do too – the new employees will not always know enough to value the offering as much as the previous ones did.
View other blog posts from this author and are our friends at Sage Research
(Author: Darryl S Brown Principal Advisor & Founder, MyPropHead.)

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