Why hard to sell PLM over the phone

plm-telesales

Life is transforming around us. Technology and communication are coming to our personal and business life. So, it comes to enterprise sales and PLM. The debates between new sales models and enterprise sales old schoolers are heating up. I posted about it last year and enjoyed many lovely conversations with sales people. My conclusion after that was – sales requires good organization and belief. Few weeks ago, I came with the idea of PLM sales cheat sheet outlining some important principles of how successful sell PLM to organizations.

Do you think you can successfully sell PLM over the phone? Personally, I haven’t heard about such examples. However, maybe new type of communication can help us. I was looking for some good examples of enterprise telesales to identify the pattern for success.

Mark Benioff is coming with some examples of CRM telesales in his book – Behind the cloud. The book is an easy read and fun – I recommend it to everybody if you have some free time. Play #41 from this book – telesales works (even though everyone thinks it doesn’t) was repeat in the following salesforce.com blog post. Mark brings top 5 points for a winning conversation in a successful sales call: Leverage the experience the prospect has had with other solutions; Introduce the value your product offers; Provide success stories from customers; Verify success stories by offering customer testimony; Provide a customer for the prospect to contact.

These points seems logical and simple. I was trying to apply it to my experience and compare to my notes from conversations with sales people to see and analyze how it can be applied in PLM sales. Why PLM sales conversation over the phone is hard? I put some of my thoughts below:

1. Leverage the experience the prospect has had with other solutions.

PLM competition (as well as previous customer experience) can be separated into two large groups – existing PDM/PLM solutions and homegrown systems. The first group is usually a result of heavy investment company made for the last 5-10 years. Second group is a solution developed by internal people (often with heavy inclusion of Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Office and other non-PLM specific tools). From my experience, it is very hard for customer to summarize main pain points. Companies are looking for more functions and lower TCO. Very often customer is not transparent about the existing PLM system situation, especially when it comes to the need to retire existing system (PLM vendor shifts to another solution/version) and existing solution is draining into problem. In a generic way, experience can be summarized as high cost, complexity and absence of specific functions. If you succeed to come to the last points, it will be clearly the success in your call, since you will be able to build your sales strategy based on these missing functions.

2. Introduce the value your product offers.

As I speak in my blog about PLM differentiation, many of them are very complicated to explain. Marketing story looks great – low cost, easy implementation, streamline your company processes, etc. However, devil is in details and the story about them is long and complicated to be told to a single phone call.

3. Provide success stories from customers.

PLM companies have large set of successful implementation stories. The problem with these stories – they all look the same on the high level – "we (company) had a problem in engineering and manufacturing process, complexity of competition, bad collaboration. With XYZ PLM solution we succeeded to solve these problems and our life is good". It is very rare (but possible) to see PLM specific examples of what process and how company improved their work environment with PLM, rather than say it is good now.

4. Verify success stories by offering customer testimony.

PLM implementation testimonial are too generic and raising too many questions from too many people in the company. It goes way beyond what is possible to answered via phone and/or WebEx session.

5. Provide a customer for the prospect to contact.

In my professional life, I never had a problem to provide reference customer to call. However, I’ve heard that on a broad scope engineering and manufacturing organizations tendency is less speak about how their working processes are organized. The diversity of manufacturing organizations plays another role and making "apples to apples" comparison very hard.

What is my conclusion? The uniqueness of existing PLM solutions and sales is high level of engineering and technical complexity. So, to maintain a successful PLM sales conversation you probably need to bring in some specific technical / functional use cases and pain points the solution you are selling can solve in a unique way. It will help you to win over the customer mind and build a foundation to continue sales process. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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