A lot of people don’t like each other in this industry–mostly because competition is gobbling up an already-fragmented market. In fact, we have had several requests for comment removal from our news feed due to the disparity of the remarks. Understandably, there is a great deal of back-and-forth banter: that’s competition at its finest. It seems to bottle itself for a time, but then always reemerges. It can be picked up anywhere on the Internet.
Push vs. Pull
I understand many would much rather grab some warm leads done via a web search. This requires the least headache because the people you speak with have generally poked around a bit. The following quotes are from Tom Reilly’s Value-Added Selling.
Value added salespeople sell three things—the product, the company, and themselves. This three-dimensional solution defies commodity-like comparisons. The same product from the same company from two different salespeople is two different solutions altogether. Logically, there can be no generic solution because no two people are the same. To reinforce this point, the only differentiation that may exist in this competitive comparison could rest with the salesperson.
Since we can all agree that digital signage software products are (or shortly will be) nearly non-differentiable in regard to function, those wishing to sell–in mass–will need to differentiate from the fray. We also need to remember that while products are strikingly similar, they still need explained granularly to customers who may not have a idea what day-parting and role-based administration even mean. Who is going to teach them? A website? Maybe, if they are the IT rep responsible. Otherwise, they are going to need an individual–a warm body.
So how do we differentiate?
Two Fortune-100 companies surveyed their customers to determine how much value their salespeople contributed to the sale; they discovered that 35-37% of the value that customers receive comes from the salespeople with whom they deal. Value added salespeople don’t make sales calls; they go on job interviews with customers. They ask customers to hire them to be their personal representative with the supplier’s company.
Apart from the salespeople, differentiation needs to be in your brand. Cisco, Hughes, 3M, and Scala certainly have a heads-up. However, garnering major support for software that runs between $1,500 and $3,000 a license may be a bit more difficult. By the way, I have seen some demos of supposed “industry leading enterprise solutions” and some of them are three years behind where they should be in functionality–all for a price tag that makes me nauseated.
Finally, I know of one company who spent (more like “wasted”) $1.5 million in targeting large national AV companies with their signage offering. The problem: the AV guys were used to doing signage their way, not the IT/server method. What happened? The project flopped. Now what are they doing? They are (and I quote), “recruiting a direct sales force.” Wow, like it was a new idea or something?
Selling without Selling
There is no such thing as selling without selling. This is true of any enterprise software. Simplicity and usability are important, but people will always want someone to hold their hand through the process. They want a person. Affiliate marketing will not work until signage queries reach into the thousands per hour.
Value added salespeople are order makers, not order takers. They understand the value of personal initiative in sales. Reactive salespeople have a wait-and-see attitude; they depend on the customer to take the initiative and then respond to the customer’s lead. Value added salespeople have a reap-and-sow attitude; they know that sales success is an active process.
Value added salespeople seek ways to add value, not cost, with their solution. This presumes initiative. Value Added Selling is a proactive philosophy; it is everything salespeople do before price becomes an issue. This value adding approach preempts price objections. Proactive value added salespeople create opportunities for themselves while creating value for customers.
Focus on sales! It doesn’t matter how grand an press release you craft or what type of PPC campaign you run to drive traffic to your website. Sell. Selling means putting your face in front of other faces. While the Internet is the place to do research, differentiation comes from the people and the company–especially now that software ain’t all the unique.
When I mention “digital signage” to the layperson, NO ONE (and I mean no one) knows what I speak of immediately. I have to educate them. The increase in PR noise for the industry is great! I think it means we are headed places. It also means we get much more educated leads from the PULL side of the lead procurement spectrum. However, this will not do for those companies seeking to “feed the fam” with software sales. Only a real salesman can do that.
Despite popular belief, this industry is still relatively small. While cell phones have reached the masses, we have not. Who regularly speaks of digital out-of-home and digital signage? People in the industry, that’s who. Burning bridges by bad-mouth banter may burn bridges that need crossed at some future date. Let’s keep informing and educating and the leads we get “online” will continue to be more qualified. Until then, some of the best and most qualified leads we garner will be from direct door-pounding mayhem where our salespeople become the qualifier. I’m going to close with a little vid from Seth Godin.