The IT lead generation process for technology companies is very different from lead generation in other industries. Technology sector needs are much more precise: the target audience is much more difficult to reach; the products or services are generally complex, high-value, and high-end; and the evaluation and selection process can be quite long, taking months, if not years, to bring the target from initial contact to closing the sale.
Leads in the technology sector "are not" discovered simply by a reference or a cold-call. Leads are nurtured from simple possible interest in services right until the final purchase decision. In traditional lead generation, the target could be anyone from a low level employee to a CEO, and you can span the entire range of B2B. In technology sales, however, the target market is almost exclusively B2B, and the target individuals are usually decision makers high up the corporate ladder. Identifying the target isn't always difficult, but reaching them can be.
As a sales representative in the IT industry, you need to identify and reach the key influencers, evaluators, and recommenders, or you stand no chance of moving towards a sale.
Even when you do get to speak to the key decision makers, unless you completely understand the client's internal structure and can distinguish between Line of Business (LOB) and Technical Contacts, you will not gain success.
Regardless of how well you know your own products, to sell them you will need to understand the systems and processes of your potential clients. In order to accomplish this, you will need not only a broad understanding of enterprise software & enterprise technologies, but also a broad understanding of the underlying business issues and goals of your potential client. Unless you fully understand this situation, you can't fully understand how your products and services can fit their needs.
2. Complex Sales
Customer contact in complex sales usually involves a sales team instead of a solo contact. The team is functionally divided into sales, technical, operational, financial, or other specialists. In addition, many customers hire third party consultants who are paid to help evaluate goods and services. This is very common in high-tech fields that are rich with complexity and varieties of applications.
Selling technology products is an involved and time-consuming process. Before you jump into a sales process, you need to determine all the key factors in the decision-making sequence. The principal factors are:
• Evaluators – You need to establish who the evaluator (s) of the product will be in order to pitch the performance and functionality of your product.
• Recommenders / Influencer – You need to establish who in the target company will be involved in giving opinions to the decision maker. Usually this includes the manager of the department that will require your service / product, but there can be numerous influencers throughout an organization, and even external to it if consultants are used.
• Decision Makers – You need to establish who the key individuals are with the authority to decide on the final purchase. Relationships with the Recommenders, and what influence each of them has also needs to be established.
• Buyer's Needs – You need to understand what needs your buyer has in order to decide if your product / service is a solution to their needs. If your product is not a solution for this specific lead, then nurturing the lead is usually not worthwhile.
Characteristics of the Complex Sale
These and other factors have created a new and different "complex sale." This type of sale can be identified by certain characteristics. In non-complex sales, one or a few of these elements may exist; but in complex sales, they are all present.
The characteristics of complex sales are:
• A long sales cycle
• A significant decision to be made in terms of dollars or strategic direction
• Significant resources are invested prior to making a decision on the part of both seller and buyer.
• Multi-level contact within the buying organization.
• A range of competitive strategies from which the vendor may choose to engage competitors.
• Buying decisions that have significant impact on the customer's business.
• Complex issues and solutions.
• Political dimensions which often supersede product and business issues.
The product or service in this type of sale may or may not be complex by itself. The sale can be made complex by the environment. For instance, selling socks over the counter may be a non-complex sale. Selling socks to the US Army is an altogether different selling situation.
Challenges of Complex Sales
In complex sales, vendors must acquire deeper levels of understanding about the customer's business and organization in order to be successful. This is one of the reasons for the longer sales cycle.
The first challenge of a complex sale is to know enough about the customer's business to determine whether the selling organization's services, products, and culture are compatible with those of the customer. The solution that the seller provides will only be as good as their ability to implement.
Beyond just understanding the customer's business, there must be a demonstration of understanding of the inner workings, or politics, of the customer organization. Most complex sales are won or lost on the political playing field. The vendor with a viable solution, who is able to analyze the political structure and align with those who have the greatest influence on the decision, is usually the winner.
Thirdly, there is a competitive dimension in B2B lead generation and complex sales. The seller must understand who their competitors are, both internally (within their own and the customer's organization) and externally (the competitors). The vendor must learn to identify the strategies that are being employed to thwart the success of their efforts. Once they have identified what these competitive strategies are, the seller must then choose the most effective strategy to overcome the competitor, while simultaneously demonstrating the most attractive solution for the customer.
In complex sales, the vendor or business development consultant, must prove their case at the operational, financial and executive level, but there is a fourth dimension affecting the decision that is not so obvious: the dimension of influence. Influence may come in the form of a person, but it may assume other forms as well. Political issues, both internal and external to the customer may influence the decision. The business environment will affect the sale, such as regulatory changes or even pending changes.
Preparing For a Complex Sale
There are no guarantees that having the most resources will provide the decisive competitive edge. The successful complex sale is as much a result of choosing the right strategy as it is of having the necessary resources. No one should attempt a complex sale without some formal methodology for managing the process. There must be tools and processes in place to communicate amongst the sales team, establish and record the achievement of milestones, map the political structure of the customer, and define goals and objectives. Nothing, including experience, will replace good processes when managing a complex sales campaign.
The choice of competitive strategy must not be made too early in the sales campaign. The strategy decision is a function of the seller's knowledge of the situation, the customer and the competition. Timing is the critical element in implementing a strategy. Applying resources to those campaigns where there is the greatest likelihood of winning also allows the vendor to compete another day.