VARs Have to Stop Selling
Many successful firms in the industry have reached a critical point. They think that since they've conquered one market, they can grow by simply selling into a new niche or marketing a totally new product.
Adopting an aura of invulnerability, they establish the beginning of the end. They suddenly lose sight of the fact that it is the customer that controls the destiny of the company not management, engineering, marketing or sales. It happened to such corporate giants as Xerox, Televideo and Wyse. And it nearly happened to IBM.
In each of these instances, the company lost touch with their customers. They set bigger and bigger goals and objectives without talking with or listening to their customers.
Xerox, a company synonymous with copiers, decided to be a major player in the computer and office systems field.
TeleVideo, a leader in terminals, felt they could spread their magic into the PC-compatible arena. Both failed to focus on their bread and butter markets and lost market share to the competition.
Ironically, Wyse, who was the big winner when TeleVideo lost its way, went on to suffer from the same shortcomings. With Wyse's change of focus, Link captured market share. At this point, Link's management is still listening to their OEMs, VARs, dealers and customers. Link has continued to focus on meeting their customers need for outstanding terminals.
Surprisingly, for all of its size and past arrogance, IBM has recently done the most in the marketplace to listen to its supporters (and detractors.) Rather than telling the marketplace what it will make and sell, Big Blue is listening to what customers want. Akers and his worldwide team have shown us that after an elephant gets hit over the head with a 2x4 a few times the message gets through.
From system integration for global conglomerates to information processing for departments and individual users, IBM has found that selling doesn't work, helping does.
A Huge, Growing Market
To date, small systems VARs have only scratched the surface of the marketplace. In the U.S. alone there are more than 20 million potential business customers. These firms employ more than 150 million people all of whom could benefit from the use of a computer or intelligent workstation.
More and more of these target businesses are taking on a national and/or international scope in their activities. And with this growth they are finding that information systems (of all types) are essential to their success.
The successful VARs will be those that show managers how individuals can use computerized information quickly, easily and accurately to make business decisions that keep them a step ahead of the competition.
Start Helping Customers
In this new environment, salespeople will have to learn to quit selling and start helping customers. Those that successfully listen to the prospect's problems and needs will quickly win market share.
The dictionary defines sell as:
- To deliver or give up in violation of duty, trust or loyalty: betray.
- To give up in return for something else, especially foolishly or dishonorably.
- To deliver into slavery for money - to impose on: cheat.
It's no wonder people are on the defensive when a salesperson calls for an appointment.
All too often the VAR comes in with some marvelous piece of technology and tells, rather than asking the prospect what his or her priorities and needs are. Because of the mystery that surrounds computerized information, the prospect is already on the defensive, reluctant to ask or answer questions. In most cases, he or she can't wait for the salesperson to disappear.
But when the helping salesperson enters the office, he or she is there to listen to and do something for the prospect.
Secrets to Helping
While it won't happen instantly, VAR salespeople have to build trusting relationships. They have to show customers that they care about them and their needs and that they aren't simply interested in making a sale. In so doing, the salespeople have to relate their products' and services' benefits to their customer's needs.
With so many potential customer businesses and individual users available to the VAR salesperson, there are plenty of reasons why the customer will buy. But the reasons are in the customer's head, not in yours. That means you have to spend time asking what, where, when, how, why and who.
Once the questions are asked, the salesperson faces his or her biggest challenge...listening. Sales are made when the buyer is talking, not the seller. All too often, salespeople talk a sale away. It's easy to forget that is more than possible to listen yourself into a sale.
Another difficult task for the salesperson is to listen to the total customer. There is one level of listening that involves conversation. But the most telling part of the conversation is what the buyers' body is saying. Individuals who have perfected the study of body language can always tell when it is time to bring out the contract and take the order.
By ingraining in everyone in a VAR organization that success depends on helping customers and then diligently practicing the process, the organization can quickly and accurately determine the direction of the marketplace.
If IBM can shake up its juggernaut organization and reshape it to be closer to the customer, it should be even easier for tomorrow's successful VARs who are only going after a portion of the 20 million U.S. firms and their 150 million employees.
All it takes is a firm commitment to stop selling.
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