From Seller to Buyer: Software Shopping
Updated: Oct 26, 2020
It's my turn to be a consumer. I've worked in training, consulting, and sales engineering at three software companies. They were all enjoyable in their own ways but I probably enjoyed Post-Sales better than Pre-Sales, where you are trying to win the business. Post-sales was rewarding in that you were trying to teach the customer how to use your software and to support them during the migration and implementation process. Pre-sales involved trying to convince a prospective customer why they should choose you. This post is mainly about pre-sales though I do address the importance of services.
Yesterday I spoke with Salesperson A who had confirmed that they could meet my full list of requirements and share best practices, yet when I got on our two sales calls, it was clear that the software couldn't meet my requirements and he came across as condescending asking me why I did things the way I did. Contrast this with Salesperson B at a different company who was also missing features I am searching for but said that they are always adding new features and bringing up gaps to the Engineering team. She also suggested workarounds which is what I was looking for. Salesperson A was clearly trying to smooth-talk me, while Salesperson B was trying to understand my business and processes and doing her best to address them with her solution.
Having experience working at software companies gives me the desire to ask questions about the company itself: how long they have been in business, how many people are on their support team, and how many customers they have. Although I would love to get in on the ground floor and grow with a company, my priority is my business and my customers. I would rather make sure my operations are running smoothly rather than get a good deal from a company that is trying to build up its customer base. So knowing about the company itself rather than just about their product is helpful since I would have a relationship with their team. As a salesperson, it is good to have this information; financials would also help illustrate how knowledgeable you are about your company.
It's brutal out there. There are many types of scheduling systems and learning management systems so it's hard to differentiate on anything but price before a demo. I began this process by requesting demos thinking they are less time-consuming than doing a trial and reaching out to someone with questions. While the demos are a quick way to get someone on the phone and make sure questions are addressed, I'm hesitant to encounter someone like Salesperson A who was trying to spend as much time with me as possible without any substance or proven ability to meet my requirements. My latest approach is to try the software first so I can find the features I'm looking for, but some sandboxes are slow and some require support to experiment with tasks. However, I still prefer testing myself first before scheduling a demo so I can weed out solutions that don't meet my requirements.
The takeaway from all this, should I ever return to the corporate world, is that first and foremost, the people making the decisions on the other end have a lot to manage so please don't waste their time or yours. Secondly and on a similar note, the demo is very important so make sure it's executed correctly. All the demos were scheduled for 20-30 minutes but they always went over time with some salespeople explaining irrelevant material. Salesperson A was trying to highlight the effectiveness of Users and Roles, which was very annoying because obviously all software allows users to set permissions for particular roles in a company. Make sure you stay on point. Next, sell your services. It's not just about the product but also what kind of support you can offer prospects after the deal is done. And lastly, differentiate yourself during the sales process by understanding requirements. Even if you don't have a specific feature, come up with workarounds so that the prospect knows that you understand what they are trying to do.
Happy Selling! May the best solution win my business!