the software supermarket

July 22, 2008 at 2:33 pm | Posted in Business, Technology Trends | 1 Comment

I was discussing with a colleague the other day some of the trials and tribulations of modern-day software sales folks. Basically, it ain’t like it was 15 years ago. As my grandmother said — and she has been quoted by so many — the Internet has changed everything!

Years ago selling groceries was much like selling anything else. It was about relationships. You walked into a store and were met by the grocer who then took you around the place and helped fill your basket. He was a consultant as much as a grocer. “Mable, this syrup here is made from some mighty fine ingredients…” and the fact that it might be 15 cents higher disappears. And, there was probably only one or two other syrups to choose from. Then came the revolution. Folks started shopping BY THEMSELVES. Shelves had the selections lined up right against each other. Decision making was largely relegated to outside the store via branding and advertising. The “grocer” now just checked you out at the cash register.

Sound familiar? About 10 years ago, you could see the barrier to entry starting to fall rapidly in the software market. Infrastructures and frameworks took dev times from years to months.  eStores made buying simple and brought every product known to man into one tidy search results screen. Then the “try before you buy” model kicked in, and just like that, the “traditional” role of the sales rep disappeared.

Software is getting much, much harder to “sell.” It has to be “pulled” by the customer in many respects, not “pushed” from the vendor. And, nowadays, even large, complicated software systems once thought too large to be touched are falling prey to the same problems due to SaaS and (soon to be very popular) Cloud computing. Software sales reps are still vital to the equation, but in my opinion, their job is now harder than ever. The best ones will become consultants as much as sales reps, or they will gravitate to selling “services,” which for now at least, still maintains the characteristics of relationship selling.

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  1. I am not sure that it’s harder or easier to sell today than it was 10 years ago. It’s just completely different. You nailed it when you referred to the consultant aspect; that’s where software sales is. We all need a trusted advisor, especially when we make purchases; someone to nudge us along; to listen to our complaints; to reassure us we made the right decision. If that trusted advisor happens to be your rep – fantastic! The trick to maintaining that relationship is to listen to your customer and advise them, even when you don’t have something to sell them. Drive by selling will die – value-add, consultative selling has a healthy healthy future.

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