Today’s IT sales journey stands in stark contrast to the traditional IT “single go-live” mindset: “Let’s go-live with our monumental project in 2 years!” followed by a period where users struggle to adopt and get used to the system. Everything happens in one fell swoop.
The IT sales journey described below inverts this. It’s all about lean methods: iterating and about learning through the life of the project. It’s about a journey, not a final destination.
Customer Expectations are shifting
IT buyer expectations are shifting along the lines in which cloud is sold. Customers tend to favour smaller upfront purchases, which may carry with them longer term, incremental (subscription-based) purchases. This shift has seeped into both the buying mindset and budgeting decision process of organisations. The new IT sales journey capitalises on how cloud is affecting both the manner in which IT services are procured and, primarily, the manner in which organisations (of all sizes) make decisions.
The IT Sales Journey: Projects – Sales – Marketing
To capitalise on the new IT buying process, IT providers need to focus on how this affects three major areas of their business: projects, sales and marketing.
Quarter one is all about just getting in the door. It usually begins with a light, vanilla installation, perhaps nothing more than a trial version of a product.
When it comes to approaching a project or client, you have to be willing to enter the organisation and deploy a very small, basic project. Something that is pretty much “out-the-box” with some very mild customisations and configurations, if at all.
In quarter two, the customer usually makes more of a commitment to the software. More specialist functions and configurations are applied, in line with demonstrated user needs.
Now, through the life of the relationship with the customer and engaging with the system users, you start to incrementally build and test the project in direct alignment with the user requirements. This is the system adapting to the user needs, rather than the other way around – which is the traditional approach. This ensures that your product is precisely what customers or users are finding real value in, making traditional change-management less onerous.
Quarter three is an extension of quarter two. Here we see massive uptake of the software by more users and we find deeper configurations and more tailor-made processes being built back into the software. Needless to say, throughout this journey, the revenue increases incrementally.
Once again, the focus is on lean methodology, iterating and learning through the life of the project. It’s about relationships. It’s about meeting the customer where they are. It’s about a journey together.
This has a massive impact on sales. How do we align this journey with the customer with expectations of our salespeople? We need to reward salespeople in alignment with this goal of building long-term relationships. That means not incenting salespeople to make monumental, capital intensive one-off sales. It makes no sense to do this while also trying to drive lean projects with clients.
Salespeople should be incented on things like number of customer sign-ups, size of user base, adoption and consumption by the customer and incremental revenue growth over time. This acknowledges and rewards the lifetime value of the contract, not just a single upfront purchase.
We need to align our selling patterns and how we engage with the customer, with their buying process and, most importantly, their buying mindset. This will give your salespeople a lot more success and they will feel rewarded for it.
Finally, we have to look at the implications for marketing. Your marketing rhythm and style needs to adjust to this new way of purchasing. We are no longer going to spend eight to ten months on longwinded sales cycle that results in a single, large capital intensive sale.
Instead, start small, with a trial version, and get a ton of leads this way. That is, a ton of potential prospects trying out the software with minimal configuration, if at all. Then go see them in quarter two. You will get them to use more features and functionality according to their needs. Here we will find ways to fill up the pipeline with smaller deals that have incremental opportunities within them. So marketing does sit with increased pressure to drive higher volume leads with smaller initial requirements.
Through this process, small clients may elevate themselves into the next tier of client-profitability within your organisation. This new marketing method has to be a lot more volume based. It does not depend on a single up-front deal in order to count that customer as a valuable customer for the organisation.
The reality is that not all incremental opportunities are going to materialize. You will lose some – not everyone it going to become elevated. Perhaps only a handful of those projects will truly mushroom into big, worthwhile, long-term projects for your business. The point here is that every small customer has the potential to develop into your most valuable customer, even if they are not buying much at the outset.
It’s all about building a lead-generating-marketing-machine . In quarter one you are inviting customers of all shapes and sizes into your portfolio. Then, growing with them and building a longer term life cycle, or journey, with that customer into quarters two, three and four. You may be pleasantly surprised at which of the smaller customers wind up becoming your highest-revenue generators.
Through this IT sales journey, you and your customer can really derive full value for your work. And you can align your business to the buyer expectations that have been created through the proliferation of cloud.