By Robert Tuomi
(WIINDSOR, ON) – Businesses, in the face of market adversity, often jettison the very people who can help turn their situations around. This usually results in inappropriately trained people carrying out marketing and sales. Such a situation happened at a computer services company. Once an industry leader it had fallen on such hard times it fired its frontline sales and marketing staff and decided to use its technical staff.
What its management missed is that the decision makers who agree to purchase its products were often not technical. Its customers were soon confronted with sales presentations carried out by non-sales people.
There is really nothing worse than having executives with limited technical knowledge being forced to sit through highly technical presentations “performed” by technical staff who would rather be back at the their laboratories.
At one such excruciating event a number of executives were sitting around a boardroom table fully expecting a crisp and polished argument that would convince them to buy the selling company’s services. The first mistake was the technician’s inability to make a good first impression. Technical staff are almost universally known for their sartorial dysfunction and do not seem to know about the rule that says sales people should never wear anything that takes away from their mission.
The second broken rule was that presenters should always speak in the customer’s language. It was obvious that the technicians had no idea how business people speak and even offered inside jokes about their technology that fell flat.
The next rule mistake made is that they bored their audience. Today most presenters use PowerPoint slide presentations. The technicians did not seem to understand the meaning of a power “point” and poured every technical word they could stuff into each slide in their deck, often using a variety of hard to read fonts in the smallest type sizes available.
The content, while highly detailed, looked like alphabet soup to the executives and offered no clear logical explanation of why the technology would help the company met its goals.
The most important man in the room, the buying company’s president, looked increasingly bored and was tossing critical cues that any good salesperson would catch. Body language can speak volumes but when the language is followed by an apologetic but quick departure, the presentation is over.
However, the technicians did not seem to even notice the considerable attrition, eventually finding themselves speaking only to their host’s computer manager.
A number of lessons come out of this. Sales people know how to impress and read body language and can adjust when they are losing interest. Technical information is great but must be what the audience needs to make a buying decision and when customers depart the presentation has failed.
Small business managers often have to be both technical and sales oriented. Unfortunately, few can do it well. There are a number of options, They can hire sales agents and they can avail themselves of the marketing resources of an advertising or marketing agency, if only for coaching.
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