As technology salespeople, it is very tempting to have early conversations around technology itself. I’ve attended job walks or integrator interviews where the representative of a technology company quickly turns a discussion about a room into questions about how many inputs and outputs the company needs on their switcher or what brand of control system they like best.
Don’t misunderstand me, the technical details of how a system works, connects, is installed and is supported overtime are extremely important to delivering a successful project. They represent the “how” and great engineers and project managers are needed to assure all of these details are addressed and covered properly.
However, in early-stage conversations, talking about inputs and outputs as a starting point is not advantageous. It creates a focus on hardware, which inevitably commoditizes (I just realized how similar that word is to commode) what we do every day. Whether we like it or not, in today’s world, if we are just a path to hardware, we inevitably will trend toward single-digit margins.
So in typical style, I am suggesting flipping your vocabulary and mindset in these initial client conversations. Instead of talking about inputs and outputs, start talking about intents and outcomes.
What is the intention of the space? Who will use it? What type of meetings do they do in there? Is it customer-facing, internal, or both? Why would someone choose to be in this space over meeting virtually?
What outcome are they trying to achieve by being physically together in that space? If the meetings or intended gatherings are successful, what does that look like? What benefit does it provide to the company? What is the impact?
By talking about the company’s intentions and desired outcomes you help unlock your potential value, solidify a business relationship based on being a trusted partner, and potentially gain an advantage when the project actually gets to the stage where it needs to be designed and quoted.
My advice is to do an audit on your last two lost opportunities. How did you approach the relationship? How soon did hardware enter the equation? How could you better focus the next conversation you have on intentions and outcomes rather than speeds and feeds, inputs and outputs?
In business and in today’s environment especially, companies are looking for partners who can help them roadmap and see around corners. Partners that can help them define an uncertain future will be exponentially valuable. The truth is, most companies can buy any product you sell cheaper somewhere else, and sometimes find it directly online. You need to differentiate your process, or you’ll only be seen as the purveyor of a product.
It’s hard to establish your value if you’re just filling out pricing on a spreadsheet.
Intents. Outcomes. Try it.