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This article was written for Startup Mag – http://www.start-up.co.nz. I thought I would republish it on J101 so people could have a read. Make sure you get your print copy of Startup mag as it’s a great read and the guys there are doing an awesome job.

Here’s the article…

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To Sell? Or Not to Sell?

As an old playwright once said…

To Sell, or not to Sell: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous, less fortunate entrepreneurs,

Or to take arms against that sea of tall poppies, and by opposing their methods make thy sales? To chase the sale: to automate thou sales methods; Yes; and by sales automation we end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks, that can arise from older traditional methods.

Selling software online always works the best when you don’t have to sell. Rather all you do is ‘Fill a need’ or ‘Solve a problem’. It should be transactional (automated where possible), not emotional. Transactional selling scales, emotional selling doesn’t.

If you have to ‘convince’ a company to buy your software, chances are you’re doing something wrong. The reason I say this is that the brand, messaging, product, website, documentation and value message should already have done the ‘selling’ to the customer. You should only need to ‘close the sale’ or make a ‘transaction’ depending on your model.

The only reason to talk to potential customers should be to help/assist/train them, or to build a relationship (important in the business SaaS arena). If enough time is invested up-front in the online marketing material and documentation, then they should be able to self evaluate and quite easily work out if the product is or isn’t for them or worth pursuing. Put another way, only the HOT leads should get through for any sales people to keep an eye on.

Keep an eye on? Don’t I mean ‘Sell to?’… No, I definitely mean to ‘keep an eye on’. You should aim to have a fairly well automated sales/trial funnel and just focus only on talking to either hot leads or people needing help, but not equal effort on every person in the door. That is high inertia selling and doesn’t scale (and carries a high cost).

So for every 100 leads in the pipe (trial accounts, general enquires etc) you should be looking for the top 10-20% of leads to proactively contact based on size, their level of interest, activity etc. And when these leads are identified, you shouldn’t have to do the hard sell, rather just email or call and introduce yourself, and ask if you can help. Don’t be pushy. Where possible, simply direct them to website material, PDF White papers, Testimonials etc. Let the marketing material do the work. That way they’ll evaluate your solution in their way, in their time and make their mind up (rather than be ‘Convinced’ by a seller). And if they want help, they’ll contact you as you were friendly and not pushy.

Although this method seems to put the control at the customer’s end, that’s not the case. As an example, we have developed an efficient ‘Call Manager’ tool designed to schedule calls and follow-ups at particular times in trial periods so we can keep encouraging and following up those hot leads.

So the parting thought here is that the sales model should be geared to automating the sale rather than hard selling. This isn’t true for every business model but in the SaaS market, I believe that 80-90% of all sales activity should be able to be automated. It just makes good sense. It’s scalable, costs less, doesn’t require offices and allows less sales staff to focus on only the hot leads!

I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this, so feel welcome to comment below!

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About the author:
Julian Stone, CEO – Project Management Software visionary for:
ProActiveSoftware.com, ProWorkflow.com, ProWorkflowBlog.com & Julian101.com
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About The Author:
Julian Stone begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting is the CEO of ProActive Software, developers and creators of the leading web based project management software http://www.proworkflow.com.