As the economy rolls on, IT sales myths still permeate technology and professional services sales forces trying to hit their forecasted sales quotas. Like urban myths, many of these business beliefs just continue to proliferate without identified authorship or business validity.
Here are the top ten IT sales myths that are currently in vogue:
Selling to decision influencers will increase your sales.
IT decision influencers (usually with titles like manager and director) are professional lookers who will waste your time, slow up your sales cycle and give you false information about buying needs, budgets and opportunities. Why? Because many times they are not in the information loop and just want to sound informed to you and look busy to their boss (the decision makers) by taking a meeting. Decision influencers kill IT sales.
Dropping prices will increase sales long-term.
Time and time again every technology business segment that has followed a commodity based pricing schema has failed. Selling down and by price is a short-term sales model that cannot sustain financial integrity. Repeat buyers by value; single sales customers buy price.
IT networking is better than IT cold calling for lead generation.
Another urban myth propitiated by those who do not want to cold call. IT sales reps who will not cold call are half-cycle salespeople. Yes, networking can create leads, but the quantity and the time cycle consistently will never match you cold calling 50 C-level executives each day. Networking is a long-term, minimum volume lead generation opportunity for IT salespeople. Cold calling is the IT sales pipeline of success.
Sales training is a cost center.
Most technology CEO's do not spend enough on IT sales training. They believe that it is more important to invest in development staff training than sales training. In fact, sales training is more important than programmer education and is a true business profit center investment. Without sales, you don't need development. CEO's can always subcontract development work - but try subcontracting your sales!
Clients buy technology.
Clients never buy technology. IT account managers who sell technology usually sell less. Clients buy pain management. Technology is just an enabler to repair the pain.
Because you were successful before 2001, you should be successful today.
Many IT firms succeeded to the 90's not because of their sales skills, but because the 90's represented the greatest buying binge since the invention of the computer. The 90's were an inbound sales model, where existing customers and new prospects called you to help them spend their technology budgets on web enablement, Windows application development or legacy transformation due to Y2K issues. In 2002 and beyond, success in technology sales is and will be based on an outbound sales model. Many IT firms this year will fail because their management teams are relying on old sales models that will not work and are not prepared to make a decision to change their business around. Instead, they will slowly shrink from lack of revenue as they hold to their lost glory days of the 90's.
Marketing department responsibilities should be focused on brochures, web site communication and trade show management.
PR is not revenue, marketing is not revenue and advertising is not revenue. Revenue is revenue. The marketing department's primary business responsibility should be creating qualified sales leads for the sales team.
The sales management job is to close IT sales deals.
Sales management's responsibility is to help you sell as a salesperson. That means increasing qualified lead traffic, supervising operational issues that affect your deals, updating your sales training skills, and acting as an intermediary with corporate management. That does not mean going to every sales presentation or meeting every Fortune 1000 prospect in person. But, many times this may become the norm instead of the exception because sales management usually carries the department's quota as a whole and revenue is revenue. But, why be in sales management if you have to close every deal?
The more strategic partners you have, the more IT sales leads you will generate.
Strategic partnerships and alliance management is a full time job. It is definitely quality over quantity that counts. Most IT and professional firms have many strategic relationships that are worthless. Like any investment of time and money, alliances need to be quantified with an assigned quota for revenue generation and minimum expectations of lead generation volume to warrant the relationship. Partnerships must have an annual ROI or their time and effort is worthless.
Question-based prospect sales probing will increase IT sales.
The fact is that asking detailed questions of IT prospects too early in the engagement process actually ends most sales cycles. You cannot cold call or engage a Senior Vice President of a Fortune 50 company the first time and start pinging them with probing business questions and expect them to answer. This myth is propitiated through fluff sales training programs and books designed for insurance and car salespeople. The fact is for technology and professional sales success to senior management teams of Fortune 1000 companies, you first must earn their respect as a business peer, not a vendor. You must first validate your knowledge about industry pains, so you can earn the right to ask investigative questions about their business needs when it is appropriate. The key to IT sales success is not probing questions; it is acting like a business peer in the boardroom with them discussing business options.
Paul DiModica is President of DigitalHatch, Inc. (www.digitalhatch.com)