Why So Many IT Companies Are Hopelessly Stuck In The Business Development Dark Ages And Refuse To Drag Their Petite Little Arses Into The 21st Century?

I believe, most IT executives know they have better chance to succeed when self-qualified buyers seek them out as recognised and respected experts, instead of their chasing buyers all over hell's half acre, but somehow when it comes to implementation, most high-tech companies are hopelessly stuck in the "more feet on the street" and "more fingers on telephone dialling pads" paradigm of doing what they've always done but doing it harder.

When you tell high-tech execs this truism, they look at you with a, "Duh, I know that" expression on their faces, but they still don't do it. They still keep hiring more salespeople and force them to make more cold calls and pound more pavements in pursuit of reluctant and apathetic suspects who try to out-run and out-hide their pursuers.

In the words of Spanish philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist, George Santayana...

"They are fanatics who lose sight of their goals and redouble their efforts."

There is one difference though. Over the years IT companies have invented fancy titles for their salespeople, like account executive, strategic account manager and other innovative names. But buyers know that these are the same old peddlers with exalted titles, so they keep hiding. And these poor souls keep peddling harder.

In today's world of selling, when sellers start desperately chasing buyers, they instantly devalue their offerings, and buyers do their level best to avoid these commission-hungry peddlers.

Actually there are eight reasons why buyers run and hide from traditional salespeople...

  1. Buyers are plain scared of meeting hard-nosed, manipulative salespeople who don't take no for an answer

  2. Buyers can obtain all the information they need to make buying decisions without meeting salespeople

  3. Buyers' plates are already piled high with mission-critical initiatives[1]. There is no time and sense to make the pile higher

  4. Buyers are tired of sitting through almost identical dog-and-pony-show style sales presentations full of hype and bullshit

  5. Buyers, most often high-level, highly trusted and respected and reliable folks, don't have peer-level relationships with the sellers' lowest level, least trusted, least respected and most rapidly coming and going people: The sales force.

  6. Buyers have lots of questions to ask, but they also know that, instead of honest answers, salespeople twist their answers so they can make quick sales, even if buyers don't need or want their products or services.

  7. Buyers and salespeople have opposing agendas. Buyers want to make intelligent decisions about their issues and available solutions, and then invest in the right solution. By contrast, salespeople just want to make the next quick and easy sale and move on.

  8. Buyers have grown tired of salespeople's "We want to partner with you" mantra. Buyers know that for sellers partnering really means cutting their claws into buyers and never let them go.

We can summarise these six points in quote from American comedian and actor, Bill Cosby...

"Each and every time you go for it, make sure you take yourself - because that's who they asked to see."

In the pre-Internet age sellers had an ace up in their sleeves over buyers: Sellers had the kind of information that buyers wanted to know.

Not any longer. Now buyers can find all the information they need to make informed decisions.

And Since Buyers No Longer Need To Meet Sellers, They Avoid Them Like The Plague

In her book, the Popcorn Report, in 1992, Faith Popcorn told us that people were cocooning, that is, they didn't want to be disturbed. Now fast forward today, and what you find is that people are borderline paranoid about having their lives interrupted. Buyers are building massive fortresses, well, peddler fodders, around themselves. They are called purchasing and procurement departments.

Instead of meeting and talking to sellers, purchasing agents, on buyers' behalf, issue competitive bids in RFPs. And RFPs remind me of the dynamic of the whole bidding process...

  1. Buyer searches for possible solutions and service providers on the web using Google

  2. Buyer settles with a specific company

  3. Buyer gathers info on the selected company

  4. Buyer and seller agrees on price and terms

  5. Buyer issues RFP to find some competitive(ly low) bidders

  6. Buyer uses low bids to pressurise the selected company to drop fees and prices (Truly good companies tell buyers to shove their opportunities up their own arses)

  7. Some poor suckers actually respond to the RFP and submit their proposals, hoping that it's a real opportunity

  8. Buyer makes a shortlist of some poor suckers for further brain-picking, called the sales presentation

  9. Buyer invites some salespeople to present their solutions. The audience of these presentations are usually mid-level opinion-makers and lower-level flunkies without decision-making authority and budgetary power. But they can take notes on good ideas and take them to their bosses

  10. Anticipating manipulative presentations, audience members put on their "sales filters" designed to separate real value from bullshit

  11. Audience members passively watch and listen to the free "entertainment" and carefully filter the message

  12. The audience members grade the presentation and the presenter

  13. The audience's decision is based on criteria the real buyer established days or weeks before the presentation in the absence of salespeople

When salespeople submit proposals in response to RFPs, they are not exactly selling anything, let alone at a peer level. As indentured servants, they are basically begging for buyers' attention. It's a kind of reverse auction: The auctioneer shouts, "Who can do it cheaper?" And frenzied salespeople try to out-scream each other, "Me! Me! Me!"

Then one winner, more often than not, the lowest bidder is selected.

And for the rest of the engagement, this poor bastard suffers from the winner's curse: In their hysterical zeal, bidders underestimate the cost of rendering their services. In order to win the bid, salespeople underbid each other so badly, that even if they win the contract, they end up losing money on it. So, eventually, the winner ends up being the biggest loser.

The sad thing is that 99% of sellers will drop the price in order to win new deals. But even by winning deals, sellers lose because these will be a very low-margin engagements.

The big hairy truth is that buyers guard their privacy like junkyard dogs.

And who can blame them? They've had lots of bad experience with hard-nosed salespeople who don't take no for an answer and keep pestering them with their stupid pitches.

Sellers' active and aggressive solicitation indicates to buyers that these sellers are desperate for business, which instantly creates the perception of substandard products and services.

And remember, perception is reality. You can have the best products and services, but if the market's perception is that you sell crap, since why else would you need to solicit business so aggressively, then you're toast.

And this is what cold prospecting achieves. Buyers think, "Who the hell is this guy calling me right out of nowhere?"

And the funny thing is that due to these hard-nosed aggressive sales approaches, buyers are getting more and more reluctant to express even mild interest in products and services. They know that hearing the mild interest, salespeople will do everything to take their money as soon as humanly possible.

Just imagine this situation...

You're sitting in your office, getting ready to meet the board of directors to discuss some major initiatives for the next fiscal quarter. Then your phone rings and the torture starts...

Good morning, Fred. How are you doing today? I'm Jim Tigernuts from Sophisticated Software Systems. We make robust, scalable world-class inventory handling software solutions for companies like yours. Our solutions reduce operating costs by 27%, while increasing profits by 12% in the first 18 months. I'll be in your area next week and would like to meet you to see how we can help your company. Would Tuesday 2:00pm or Thursday 11:00am the best for us to meet?

And the buyer's reaction is: "Bloody peddler." - and slams the phone down.

Further thoughts from buyers about these sellers...

"If your stuff is so good, why do you have to do this nonsense of pestering people in their offices?"
"You must be pretty desperate to get my business if you're willing to drive out here based on a very faint interest on my part? "
"Your business must stand on very shaky legs. I'd better stay away from it. "
"Do we need such a dodgy service provider that can go tits-up at any moment, leaving us high and dry after taking our money?"

And what happens next? Well, something like this...

"I'm pretty busy right now, but you can send some information to our Procurement Department."

And this is the end for our salesperson on a cold-prospecting mission. Being relegated to the peddler fodder department, and being treated at arm's length, just as the other vendors, like the janitor or the car park attendant.

On Summary

On the final analysis, when it comes to selling, we have two options with two drastically different consequences:

Option 1: Cold prospecting grunt work of hassling prospects into appointments and manipulating them to buy.

Consequences: "Who the haemorrhaging hell are you? I've never heard of you. I don't know your products and services. I don't know what you're doing here. What the hell are you trying to sell me?" Using an example from shark hunting, this is the equivalent of jumping in the water and chasing sharks individually.

Option 2: Putting out valuable content to the market and have self-qualified prospects come to you, ready, willing and able to do business with you at your fees and prices and on your terms.

Consequences: "I've read your white papers, have seen you speak, have visited your website and regularly read your newsletter. I like what you sell and what your company stands for. When we're ready to change, basically to buy, you're the company we'll come to."

Using an example from shark hunting, this is the equivalent of creating a feeding frenzy. Put out a hunk of meat or a bucket of blood, basically valuable content for your target market, and in a minute or two you'll have dozens of sharks around your boat. That is, self-qualified prospects who are ready for your solution, come to you and buy from you on your terms and at your fees and prices.

Call me lazy if you will, but personally I take Option #2 on any day.

Selling is neither magical nor mysterious. It's the natural consequence of consistently applying basic marketing fundamentals.

So, where is the problem?

Many IT companies don't want to wait. They want instant "Nescafe" type sales. You know, the low-hanging fruit.

There is a world of difference between knocking on buyers' doors pontificating...

"We're the best and we want to do business with you."

...and buyers' knocking on your door saying...

"We've heard you're incredibly good. We've heard you're obscenely expensive. And we've heard you're worth every penny you charge. When can we start?"

The former is good for generating quick buck type one shot sales at competitive(ly low) fees and prices.

The latter is more suitable for generating repeat and referral sales with the top 5-15% of the marketplace at premium prices. It's also more enjoyable, more profitable and less stressful.

Yes, the former is cheap and easy, but never gives you momentum. You have to do it perpetually for the rest of your life to see results. Once you stop the hard work, the results stop too.

The latter requires a bit of upfront work and investment, but then the rewards are for life. It's like a flywheel. Once it gains momentum, it keeps turning and turning and turning, bringing you top-notch clients in a consistent and predictable manner.

So, which approach do you choose? If you choose the latter, the low-labour high-yield approach, selling your stuff as respected industry experts as opposed to dreaded peddlers, I think you'll find lots of help on this website.

There are two ways you can proceed from here. If you want to read more, you can go to the IT Business development resources section. Or if you need some help, then check out the types of IT companies I work with, and decide if we might have a fit to work together.

Of course, there is a third way: Leaving the site altogether, but I hope you find more value on this site than running away so quickly.

And remember, don't sell harder. Market smarter and great clients with sexy opportunities will come knocking on your door asking for your help.

[1]According to a study by the National Association of Professional Organisers, the typical executive has 59 hours of urgent work on his/her desk at any one time that must be done by... yesterday. So you can imagine how keen they are on meeting salespeople and listening to their canned dog-and-pony shows. Continue where you've left off...

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