Posted Friday, February 4, 2005
Reliability (Part 1 of 4)
Most salespeople love to talk about their “-abilities”: Reliability, Upgradeability, Compatibility and Expandability. Salespeople feel stronger and more confident when they can use their ‘abilities’ to convince the customer to make a buying decision. But what happens when the customer still doesn’t buy? What happens when you keep repeating your abilities but get no response or pulse from the customer? Many salespeople overuse their company's abilities. Repetition or sounding like everyone else has the affect of dulling a customer’s buying senses. So, how do you sell ‘abilities’ effectively? Lets start with reliability in this first of four articles.
In any selling situation whether product or service, mostly the former, the term reliability is bound to be raised as a point of contention or objection. Twenty years ago reliability was much more of an issue then it is today when it came to hardware sales. Today, with the improvement of semiconductor electronics, the consolidation of component on chips or boards and the reduced dependence on moveable parts (e.g., mechanical v. electronics), reliability is less of an issue when it comes to hardware.
Reliability as it applies to selling software on the other hand is another animal altogether. As programs have gotten more robust, requiring millions of lines of codes, they’ve become more susceptible to ‘bugs’ and operating system errors.
There are three basic strategies for overcoming reliability objections or issues with software and/or hardware products:
Strategy #1: References are only good when they are similar in company structure and needs. If you have customer with similar profiles to the company you’re trying to sell to, use that customer as a reference. The reference company should have a similar profile in terms of requirements (e.g., many offices distributed, over 1,000 employees who’ll access the system, etc.). Warning: Using a company’s competitor as a reference can backfire.
Strategy #2: Agree to set up an onsite trial where the software (or hardware) can be used and exercised to it’s fullest. This strategy is referred to as ‘beta testing’. One approach is to use one of the company’s smaller departments. The benefit to you the salesperson is that you’ll be able provide and support a more controlled environment. If the software or hardware works within the department, you will be able to leverage that success company-wide. Warning: These tests should only be done when your product(s) has passed your own ‘bug & crash’ test.
Strategy #3:Many large corporations have some type of certification program. Some of these programs are either done in-house or outsourced to some third-party company who specializes in testing products. Take a look at one of your appliances at home and you’ll note that it has been certified as reliable by some third-party laboratory (e.g., U.L.). If a company has an in-house certification program, the first step in the selling process is to get the product approved. Here is where a salesperson’s technical support team can play a key role in ‘helping and expediting’ the certification along. If the certification is to be done by a third party, all you can do is hope your product passes. The key here is to get your product(s) approved and “spec’d in” (i.e., specifications approved) by the company. Once this happens, a path is cleared for the salesperson to begin the selling process.
In all three strategies, a lot of selling has to be done, not some much about the product, but about your company. Buyers need to know that your product is highly reliable and that you are equipped to support it over the long run. Keep in mind that a buyer has to invest time and effort just to help ‘you’ sell them. Great salespeople understand that they are inconveniencing the company. Which is why great salespeople will do anything and everything to make sure the testing phase goes smoothly without undue demands on the potential buyer. These types of sales have long cycles and require patience, understanding and flexibility on the part of the seller.
© 2003. Victor Gonzalez. All Rights in All Media Reserved
About the Author
Victor Gonzalez is a sales trainer and motivational coach.