As a software company supplying and serving fellow software companies, Izenda is in a unique position. We are always striving to learn more, improve, grow our company, and we want our partners and clients to be expanding and growing as well. So we’re always looking for tips to pass along.
The Harvard Business Review recently featured Steve W. Martin’s research and conclusions, after he interviewed hundreds of business-to-business clients of his own, over the course of a year. He sought to discover what specific obstacles were preventing business deals to close, rather than a general list of the problems that made their jobs more difficult. His subjects are spread over a variety of sectors, from high-tech to finance to healthcare, but the basic sales issues make up a short, helpful list.
Some of the most basic reasons begin internally, before the process has even begun. That includes administrative duties that consume time, like reports and post-sales activities that eat up valuable sales time. Then there is the issue of making the internal sale: rallying internal support to pursue and account, working with the team, and dealing with the internal processes to generate leads, proposals, quotes, and contracts. Others cite their lack of pre-sales resources, like adequate staffing and availability of product specialists to fully support their efforts.
There is also the continual battle for the elusive new account. The sales team needs more leads, Martin found over and over. The most difficult step is getting the initial interest of a potential customer, and setting up that first introductory meeting. Within this, there is a constant effort to differentiate your product in a market plagued by commoditization, where features, functions, and specifications of the products might not differ that much from the competition.
The Sales Cycle
The sales cycle can be interminably long, riddled with other distractions and emergencies on both ends of the deal. There are the unavoidable 800-pound gorillas, too, powerhouse companies like Microsoft and IBM that often get market share by default. If your product falls anywhere near the “Nice-to-Have” category, the kind of product that might be considered luxury or non-essential, you’re then plagued by dismissals with a simple “wish we could” response amidst cut-backs.
From the customer’s side, there is always the weighing of price versus value, and where your product winds up on that spectrum affects the end result crucially. This also stretches the sales cycle significantly, as decision-makers stall and deliberate. Customers will go to great lengths to ease their anxieties about a buying a product, including hiring consultants and doing a lot of involved research. And at the end, there still might not be a decision. Within this, part of the problem is often their own internal sales, and how well their representatives can sell the product within their own company. And again, managers and executives pulled in many directions slows down the sales cycle across industries.
Keeping aware of what your sales team sees as its biggest obstacles helps clarify areas for improvement. Every single employee should understand the process so that at every level of your company, whether large or small, the process is continuously amended and streamlined.