June 11, 2021

The Art of Technical Sales

The Art of Technical Sales

I wanted to write this post because I had a conversation with a friend about what it means to be involved in technical sales. Whenever I tell people I work in sales for Red Hat I am sure it conjures up images of a used car salesman trying to sell a beat up car to an unsuspecting buyer. The truth is that there are two kinds of people who work in sales. There is the "used car salesmen" and then there is the consultant. I wanted to use this short blog post to explain the differences in the two and hopefully have this push others looking to go down this route to the right path.

Sales has gone through a metamorphosis especially in the software world. Companies are getting smarter with how they spend their money and who they decide to work with. The days of just pushing a product and making the sale are gone. You have to become an advocate for each account you are assigned to. The best way to do this is to understand the pain points of each organization and how your product can alleviate this pain. This requires a more technical approach and understanding of the products you are selling as well as what products your customers are using and their shortcomings. The greatest salespeople are the ones that can make a sale without ever mentioning their product. An example of this would perhaps make my point easier to understand.

A company I used to work for (whom shall remain nameless) sold a product to help prevent brownouts in manufacturing plants. A brownout is a quick drop in power. It could be anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, but its very quick and can unintentionally screw up production. If you are interested in reading more then feel free to find those better sources I am always mentioning. One of the salesmen (the better of the two types) at this company would walk into an account and without even mentioning the product he would ask if the customer was having issues with brownouts. They are notoriously common in North Carolina so he knew the answer would be a yes. From there the sale was easy, "we have a product that can help mitigate the losses from brownouts" and without even mentioning the name of the product he was able to open the door to a sale.

Salespeople like the one I mentioned above have a great gift. They are able to look at a product and understand the use cases it can solve. From here they are able to understand how to apply it to a customer's current operations. They aren't using any flashy tactics or buttering a customer up in order to get their business. They are simply letting a superior product speak for itself. While this method does require a more technically minded salesperson it will generally lead to a higher rate of customer satisfaction and return sales. This is especially key in an industry where subscription software is quickly gaining traction.

Imagine if, when purchasing a car, you drove up to a dealership and the moment you got out of the car the dealer understood your general needs and was able to suggest a car, not based off his commission or the models available, but a car that worked for your needs. While there are dealers who do this and it is increasingly becoming more common it is still far too familiar to find salespeople who are focused merely on the sale and not the long term satisfaction of the customer. This is harder to come by in enterprise sales but as we move more towards specialization (product specialists, solution architects, industry specialists, etc) the first line of defense, the salesperson, is increasingly becoming removed from the technology.

This is why we should strive to include our sales organizations in technical trainings and technical requirements. They are the first line between the company and the customer and should serve as an advocate for the customer. This requires them to know not only the customer's technical specifications but also the technical specifications for the products they are selling. They need to be able to understand the technical conversations in order to listen for key words which can lead to a sale but also identify future pain points that may be avoided by having a technically minded resource in the room. Technically enabled sales organizations are vital to a thriving enterprise and ensuring your team is enabled can help drive sales and lead to happier customers in the end.