Selling technology in a business to business (B2B) environment means selling to technical audiences. Common examples might include:
- Selling OEM Software to Engineers who will use the software’s application programming interface (API) to integrate it into their end product.
- Selling integrated circuits (ICs) to hardware engineers designing technology products like TVs or Weapons systems or MP3 Players.
- Selling development tools like compilers, debuggers, logic analyzers or network traffic analyzers.
The types of products and scenarios are legion, but the unifying factor is that the sales team needs to have a deep understanding of the underlying technology that they are selling.
In B2B technology sales, teams are typically comprised of an account manager who is responsible for the sales and business aspects of the deal, and an application engineer who is responsible for the technical portion of the sale.
The Sales Cycle
The sales process for technology products, tends to run from several weeks to many months depending on the complexity of the product and it’s overall impact on an organization. An on site technology demonstration, followed by a detailed product evaluation are usually required before a sale is made.
The Stakes are High
One of the most important aspects of the the technology sale is that it is often more important for the technical buyer to make the right choice than it is to get the best price.
The reason for this atypical behavior is that technology products often become an integral part of the user’s process or products. If a prospect buys a tool with the expectation that the tool will improve and optimize a process, they need to realize these benefits. Products that do not work as advertised can scuttle a project and result in layoffs or even failure of a start up.
If an engineer selects an integrated circuit for a design it is crucial that the part meets specifications and that the vendor can deliver the part on time. Missed deliveries or poor quality can ruin an engineering schedule and incur costly redesigns.
The Steps to the B2B Technical Sale
The first step is to have a viable lead and to qualify it to see if it is worth pursuing. Leads come from a variety of sources depending on the type of company, product and market. Some examples of lead sources are:
Web Leads or Inbound Marketing Leads – These are generated by providing quality content on your web site that attracts prospects to you and gets you and your company on their radar as a possible solution.
Pay Per Click Ads – these are the type of leads where you pay for an ad that shows up after a web search or on a web page. These are typically Google ADs, LinkedIn ads or others.
Referral Leads – These leads come from customers familiar with your product and who recommend you to others who may benefit.
Trade Show and Event Leads – These leads come for online or face to face events where prospects engage with you to learn more about your product.
Once you have a possible lead, you need to qualify it to determine its viability. To qualify a lead, you need to understand if their is a fit for your product and also if there is a way for the prospect to get the funds to purchase it. The prospect does not always have a budget for your product though they often do. If they do not have a budget, it is key to get time with the key decision makers around the problem your product solves so that you can peak their interest and try to develop the need. If you can, they can typically fine the budget to purchase.
If the prospect is not a fit, you can decide if it is worth nurturing for the future or taking it off the list.
Once a lead is deemed viable, you want to do some discovery to understand what is important to the prospect and enough detail to create and deliver value messages that show them how to solve their problem with your product.
You typically want to ask about what is happening now, where they would like to be and the details about how they do things today. Armed with this information, you can craft a value message that lets them “see” the value of your product.
There is a typical flow of interaction in B2B Tech sales. Here is an example:
- Additional meeting and calls with various constituents
- A proposal or quote
- Competitive work
In technology sales, the sales team needs to work together on each of the steps to win the sale.
If you have questions on the sales process, please comment below.