There’s no other way really to frame the point this post is making so if you don’t wish to understand it; look away now.
Let’s illustrate the point with a story about Bob.
Here’s Bob looking all cheery and pleased with himself because he’s just met you and found out that your business is just the type of technology reseller that can help him with his business.
He has the usual needs; a mixed bag of machines that all run various operating systems and applications, a number of staff who distract themselves from the core business with social media and news platforms, as well as a fascination with ‘Cloud’ since it’s what he’s been hearing a lot of lately.
You know the type. You meet a Bob pretty much every day right?
In your head, you’re no salesperson but understand what he needs and from your extensive knowledge and experience know what it’s going to take to fix his problems now. Not just that, you can build him a technology infrastructure that’s going to help Bob’s business work more efficiently moving forward.
But that’s not selling… right? Wrong!
Selling is the simple art of you having a product or service that someone else wants. Before Bob, there was Eric, Tommy, and Spike who all wanted something that you couldn’t (or wouldn’t) provide. But here’s a guy and a business that you know you can help. So you talk with passion and listen with interest and now you have Bob as your lovely shiny new client.
Well done you!
Some months later, Bob calls into the office for you but you’re not available. Rather than take a message for you to call him back, your receptionist asks Bob the reason for his call and he explains that his sales manager is away and he can’t access one of their spreadsheets he’s working on. Quite logically, your receptionist tells him not to worry and that he’ll pass him onto one of your technical team.
All sounding good so far?
It should do, you have a great team working for you in your absence and you’re confident that all the training and experience they have will mean the problem can be resolved pretty quickly. So as expected, Bob doesn’t have to wait too long with one of your techies until the spreadsheet is found and he’s a relieved little bunny.
As Bob passes his thanks on he mentions that this happens quite frequently and that it’s common to find multiple copies of the same file all over the place. Your techie laughs politely and says something along the lines of ‘yeah, that happens to lots of our clients too’ before saying goodbye and putting the phone down.
To the techie, he’s done his job.
To you, me, and Bob a glaring opportunity has just been overlooked.
Whether you would recommend SharePoint, Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc… Bob’s presented a member of your company (forget that they are in the technical department) with an opportunity to resolve a bigger issue.
What he should have spotted is that the reason for the call was because of the effect, not the cause.
When Bob met you, you told him your business is capable of being that ‘one-stop-shop’/ ‘solution provider’/ ‘trusted business advisor’ (delete as appropriate) and right at this moment, someone in your organisation has:
a) not realised it was their also their responsibility to practise what you preached
b) didn’t think about the client but rather the immediate problem.
c) also told Bob that your company leaves other clients without a solution to this now seemingly common problem.
Be careful not to let your technical teams get too bogged down in the details and technicalities of the services and products you sell and support. They may not be the proactive, outward facing team typically associated with selling, but when a client comes to you giving you the big neon-lit opportunity to sell more solutions, an inbound sales opportunities now lies at their feet and all they have to do is refer it back to you.
If your technical team could find at least one of these a month, then that’s one less opportunity you or your sales team have to go on the hunt for. What’s even better is that this type of opportunity lies with an existing customer, so the potential time to implementation and therefore invoicing is also dramatically reduced.
Hoorahs all round!
Make your technical teams more aware of their value above and beyond the bits and bytes. Show them how they figure in the pre- and post-sales process. Make time to sit with them (bribe them with biscuits if you have to!) and get them to talk through a few of their recent trouble tickets.
You as a business owner may learn more about how what you promise actually presents itself to your client throughout the time of their relationship with you.
Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that helps technology organisations redesign their business models to help them build better relationships with their customers. You can follow the team on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.