There are probably as many patented sales processes on the market as there are fad diets. Companies spend billions of dollars per year on Zig Ziglar-type training programs. Sales is both a science and an art. As a business in the process of buying technology, it is key to know how to select the best solution for your project instead of the solution from the best sales person.
Before I share with you some ways to avoid being misguided to the wrong solution, understand that I am proud to have been a professional sales woman for the past decade. Just like most sales professionals, I pride myself in doing right by my client, being transparent, and providing them the best information for their decision. This isn’t about sales professionals doing you wrong. It’s about understanding the people presenting information to you have a strong biased and knowing how to navigate the process with eyes wide open.
No matter the product, a good sales person will have you visualizing your new life as the hero/heroin of the company for implementing their product with remarkable results. A bad sales person asks all the wrong questions and seems clueless about what you are trying to accomplish. Stay focused on your evaluation strategy and remain in control of the process. Having an unbiased third party manage the process makes it easy to remain objective and stay on course.
HINT: In order for a third party to be unbiased, they cannot benefit more or less based on which solution you select.
Keep your poker face
In order to maintain optimal negotiating power, appoint someone to be the single point of contact for the sales person. Any time a sales person is calling, they are looking for tidbits of information to help them win, and what can seem like harmless data points could hurt you at the negotiation table. The designated point of contact must know how to communicate with the vendors without compromising your position of power. A highly trained and experienced sales professional knows how to identify even the most clever tactics.
Begin as you mean to go
More often than not, when implementing new technology you will begin with the basics and expand from there. Most vendors can perform the primary functions very well and are excited to show them to you. It is critical during a proof of concept to evaluate the functionality you will need in the future, beyond “phase 1”. Do not get trapped with a product that does the basics very well but advanced capabilities are cumbersome or, worse, don’t work at all. The extra work upfront will pay off.
Channel your inner Roy Firestone when interviewing references
You may recall, Roy is a former ESPN sports anchor famous for making the toughest athletes cry during an interview. While you hopefully won’t make them cry, there are ways to pull the full story out of a reference. Sales professionals hate giving references because they feel out of control of what a customer may say. Too often you are engrossed in the evaluation process and run out of time for interviewing existing clients. Current customers are key to getting a clear picture of what it is like to work with the vendor and product. Be sure to get multiple references that are using the same products as you, and know how to get the right information from them. Never invite the sales person to the call. When the request comes to attend (and it will), kindly say no and assure them you will provide an update afterwards. You want the reference to feel comfortable
crying speaking freely in front of you.