How many B2B sales methodologies are out there?

If You talk about B2B sales methodologies You talk about drugs, medications and treatments. So to answer Your question there are as many B2B sales methodologies for IT companies as many drugs and treatments in healthcare for humans. A lot! 🙂

The trick is not to find methodologies (or books about them on Amazon) the big secret is: Which one to take, how much of it and how often…?!

I implement Agile B2B Sales Methodologies so the first thing to make clear is that there is no such thing like one-size-fits-for-all if we talk about Your company’s sales. In this post I will give it a try to define at least the basic archetypes of IT companies from B2B sales point of view.

So let’s start with the basics: Why do we think of ‘winning off-the-shelf packages’ instead of ‘useful building blocks’ for a building?

What makes us believe that there are ready made solutions for our extraordinary unique company?

I think it is to blame and being precise it is the writers of the sales books who misguide us. (Please don’t get me wrong or sue me I mean no offend to the very respectful company called Amazon or any writers promoting their books. This is not a statement about their behavior, it is just an exaggeration to make my point.)

Marketing is a heartless-bitch and to sell a book to You in the marketing race of today all the rules of marketing must be applied:

  1. So the book needs to be ‘different’ than the other books
  2. it must offer a complete solution to Your problems, and
  3. it must have a ‘brand-new’ idea based on ‘brand-new’ studies and market experiences

So at the end of the day You can only find books on B2B sales methodologies that are closer to religious literature than to the real-life (and the real needs) of Your company. Because who would buy a book (or a sales-training) that talks about general basic things not promising winning-formulas, no big-secrets but only good-old facts about the basic rules of sales that are there since we started sailing in the Eastern-basin of the Mediterranean 3000 years ago… 🙂

So no, there is no one single medicine to cure Your B2B sales problems, but YES, there are some treatment types that are typical for different IT companies.

So let’s see what are these archetypes of IT companies:

(this grouping is my understanding from B2B sales perspective)

  1. Software Vendor Company (like Oracle, SAP etc.)

    They are the typical manufacturers that have some software products and manage the product-lines (Commercial Off-The-Shelf – COTS). The product unit is usually license fee + annual maintenance fee.

  2. Software Consulting Company (like Accenture, Deloitte etc.)

    They are the typical Chanel Partners of the vendors focusing on solution providing and implementations. Their product unit is usually consulting day.

  3. Custom Software Boutique (like Thoughtworks, EPAM etc.)

    Custom software development companies developing any business softwares on demand. Their service unit is usually developer days (recently complexity points – based on SCRUM)

  4. Cloud Service Company (like Google, Paypal, Facebook, etc.)

    SaaS, PaaS and ‘all that jazz’ meaning all types of cloud-based services priced ‘on-the-go’, pre-paid, montly, yearly etc.

  5. Hardware Company with high added value services (like IBM)

    Hardware sales in itself is a whole different universe I do not intend to cover right now, but their high added value services usually can be described as the services of a Software Consulting Company (see above)

OF COURSE most companies – even the examples – are the combinations of these five (or who knows how many) brackets we can define, but from sales point of view there are major differences between these five ‘predators’. These different archetypes hunt for different preys. Their target contacts, their customers profiles and their deliverable sales messages are (or least should be) totally different.

And because most IT companies are a combination of these five archetypes the common problem is that companies don’t have a clear understanding who they are so they don’t have a clear understanding of what sales-behavior-set to apply. (specially because their wide portfolio contains opposite items and they have the mindset to think about their sales department as a centralized business unit which should apply the same or similar processes for any portfolio item sales)

And now let’s see the real deal, what are the differences between the main B2B sales-messages (not marketing messages!) of our four +1 archetypes:

  1. If You are a Software Vendor Company to boost Your sales You should engage more Chanel Partners (Software Consulting Companies). So Your product to sell is NOT the software You are manufacturing BUT the idea that it is a great thing to be your Chanel Partner because You are a better manager, a better host of Your partners than the other Vendors. Certainly there must be some general marketing messages about Your product but just to support Your relationship with the Chanel Partners. Few IT companies can afford marketing campaign for their products and as we are talking about B2B I believe it is OK. Though when they do the strong messages for COTS are ‘experience’ of the vendor, ‘reliability’ and ‘prestige’.
  2. If You are a Software Consulting Company You are a doctor so to boost Your sales You should prove Your outstanding references (satisfied patients) and Your independence from the big ‘Drug Manufacturers’ = Vendors. So when You prescribe a drug (a software) it is not because You are making money on it, but because Your patient really needs that particular software. Usually it  is also effective to talk about Your ‘ability to manage the change’ at Your customers.
  3. If You are a Custom Software Boutique You are not a doctor, You must communicate that You are Michelangelo so You should prove that Your work is a state of the art but You are even better than Michelangelo because to be in a project with You is fun and easygoing. The best messages ‘creativity’, ‘flexibility’ and beyond everything the ‘importance of the idea of Your customer’.
  4. And finally if You are a Cloud Service Company You must convince everybody that “…Everyday is Christmas with You…” so You are big, You have a lot of money to spend on product development, which is not simply Your core business but also Your hobby to do. R&D, R&D, and R&D… You find it challenging and amusing to beat Your competition with newer, better and faster functions and that is why every week/month/quarter You come out with new versions and updates. That is why You always pay extra attention to the opinion of Your customers that is why You have extra surveys and queries and that is why You are arranging big customer events on a regular basis. And that is why the best thing on Earth is to be Your customer!

We could also have a look at the different Customer Profiles of the different IT companies, the different Target Contacts and also the different interests of these different DMUs (Decision Making Units) belonging to different Value-Chains but to start I believe this is enough for now to make my point that every IT company and every portfolio item within an IT company requires extra attention before re-engineering its processes to boost the Sales…