Selling Services on the Cloud: Elements of Success

Although sales of  intangibles — services, Cloud-based software — carry healthy margins, sales close rates are typically well-below the ideal.  Examining the reasons why this occurs is key to solving this issue. A panel of veteran salesmen shed light on the challenge at TechAmerica San Diego Marketing & Sales’ July Roundtable.

The event was especially productive due to the variety of attendee profiles, all of whom brought unique perspectives to the discussion. I spoke with a software technologist who’s starting up a new venture, an account manager for a Cloud-based data management solutions provider, and a project manager at an IP-based telephony systems provider.

As soon as moderator Craig Arnoff, co-chair of the roundtable asked panelists how selling intangibles differs from selling products, it was clear that successful sales people share universal traits, regardless of what’s in their bag of tricks. Trust, training, drive, optimism, better customer service. Some are born, some are made.

Ken Reilich made an interesting point: some salespeople come to rely upon products as crutches, vs. their selling skills. Products become the sole reason for success, or the whipping boy for failure (“pricey, lousy, old…” ) Take the product away, and replace it with intangibles, and success is slightly more determined by superior selling skills.

David Alemian reminded us that a successful salesperson can sell anything: he began his career selling swimming pools in New England, in the winter (quick, what’s the pain point there?!); and now promotes a novel, Cloud-based management tool sold to healthcare IT leaders. He also touched on Neuro-Linguistic Programming as a key element in human interaction.

Bruce Cole sells Internet marketing and SEO tools and services at a local and community level. He emphasized testimonials and proven success stories, which I also advocate is the most valuable sales tool, whether selling in one zip code or in several continents. I think that’s why Yelp and Angie’s List have earned such a following.

At this point, I wondered how each panelist would extend these formulas for success into a channel-driven, multi-tier sales organization… wherein face-to-face visits with end decision makers are rare or impossible.  A successful global channel leader possesses all of the above traits and skills, then marries them with excellent organizational skills, time management, and a healthy respect for the value of channel partners. Topic for another panel!

Craig brought up the core element of success: a fruitful, face-to-face experience with customers begins with a  make-or-break, 15-second pitch. For successful salespeople, it’s like breathing. But for less outgoing, more self-conscious people it’s a mystery.  Craig also shared a couple of items from his Sales Alliance toolkit: how pre-screening and benchmarking can increase a good match between sales candidate and employer.

Reminds me of a lesson I learned long ago on career development: teamwork lets others benefit from your talents, as you do what you do best; while you draw the same from them. Don’t waste time trying to perfect your less-than-ideal skills.

More about the moderator and panelists here.

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SaaS Market Expansion Strategies: Part4

Hanson Marketing is leading a market expansion project for a SaaS solutions developer. (View Part1 here and Part2 here and Part3 here) We’re seeking international markets across many verticals wherein SaaS is in rapid growth mode, and are focusing our efforts on the Managed Services Provider partner model. But first, it’s roll up the sleeves and create marketing messages that will resonate well with new target customers, and populate a SEO-savvy, re-designed website.   Success stories and industry-specific solution descriptions will form the meat of the new website.

We’re also gauging the viability and influence of our target industry trade associations and analyst groups: namely, those which are in orbit around the world of Managed Services Providers (MSPs)

Finally, the client is bringing aboard an account manager, to cultivate new business from existing revenue from trusted, current partners.  That’s the low-hanging fruit I discussed in

SaaS Market Expansion Strategies: Part4

Hanson Marketing is leading a market expansion project for a SaaS solutions developer. (View Part1 here and Part2 here and Part3 here) We’re seeking international markets across many verticals wherein SaaS is in rapid growth mode, and are focusing our efforts on the Managed Services Provider partner model. But first, it’s roll up the sleeves and create marketing messages that will resonate well with new target customers, and populate a SEO-savvy, re-designed website.   Success stories and industry-specific solution descriptions will form the meat of the new website.

We’re also gauging the viability and influence of our target industry trade associations and analyst groups: namely, those which are in orbit around the world of Managed Services Providers (MSPs)

Finally, the client is bringing aboard an account manager, to cultivate new business from existing revenue from trusted, current partners.  That’s the low-hanging fruit I discussed in

 

SaaS Market Expansion Strategies: Part2

Hanson Marketing’s latest project – finding new markets for a provider of SaaS-based data management solutions – has entered phase two, wherein we have selected Managed Service Providers (MSPs) as the optimal new customer profile. In the global MSP sector, we view highest revenue growth potential, and most opportunity to extend the company’s credentials as subject matter expert on the crucial issue of data governance in the Cloud.

MSPs are target customers themselves, as are their clients; and many have developed industry-specific expertise (i.e., healthcare, financial, research) They’ll be interested to know about our client’s proven success in these and other sectors.

Up next?

  • Product Positioning – relate the existing product line’s robust performance in the Cloud, through data sheets and white papers that are driven by customer testimonials
  • Public relations – extending the reach of the client’s deep industry experience and early entry into Cloud-based data management solutions. Speaking engagements, guest editorials, sponsorship at MSP industry gatherings
  • Web Assets – Formation of a new web presence, via a new site that will co-exist alongside the company’s existing, product-centric website. Here, we introduce three elements vital to any successful website: focused URLs and page descriptors, customer-driven success stories by sector, and SEO-friendly words that win the attention of decision makers in the global MSP sector
  • International expansion – defining a short list of 3-4 new international territories, in which there are well-established MSPs and relatively few obstacles to entry by a foreign provider. As a US-based software developer, our client has a strong advantage in any international market they choose to enter.
  • Stay tuned as we delve into these and other market-building elements, in our quest to successfully re-position our client in as an expert solutions provider for MSPs, worldwide. (View Part1 here)

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