Just as hunters study their prey, users should understand vendors and their selling techniques if they want to beat them at their own game. IT managers should be armed with an understanding of sales tactics and motives each time they attend a vendor sales briefing, according to independent IT sales consultant Mike Jones.
“How important are you to the vendor sales people? The interesting thing is sometimes you’re not,” Jones told an audience at this year’s Interaction IBM users forum. “And other times you are very important. Sometimes on a little Mickey Mouse deal you are exceptionally important. How come? Year-end is very, very important to vendors.”
And Jones should know, he used to run part of IBM's sales training and is now managing director of UK-based consultancy Focuscentre. “Don’t think that sales people are only in it for their commission, they’re not,” he said. “Yes it’s important, but people work for achievement, recognition, then reward.”
“So what are they looking for? Well, first they want to know about your company because they’re going to credit-check you, unless you’re a household name,” he said. “And then notice the switch to personal information: ‘how many kids do you have, how old are they now?’ They do that for empathy – they want you to like them. Then they want to know your status within the company to determine how may layers there are between you and the person who signs the cheque. Also, where do you fit? If you dropped dead who would replace you?”
This process, Jones said, is known as succession analysis which is of critical importance to determine an IT manager's decision-making responsibilities.
Next on the list is hunting down your business problems. Jones said this is part of a search for additional sales opportunities. Then there's the budget hunt.
“Often they will ask you what your budget is.
"Are you going to tell them? No, never, because surprise, surprise, you give them a budget and they’ll come in just under it,” he said adding it is best to use terms like 'major expense' to avoid giving away any secrets.
Finally, he said, sales people want to know what you know about the business you’re in.
“Now why would they want to know that? Because they may need to use you in the future to sell to others in similar organizations. It’s all part of the information gathering process,” he said.
Golf and the four-point plan
Information is the key to making a sale which is why vendors always ask about your outside interests.
Do you go to the local golf club? What's your handicap?
IT sales consultant Mike Jones says the next time a vendor is having a social golf day sales prospects with an interest in the sport will certainly be invited.
Jones said the four-point plan for vendor sales people is be professional, informed, persistent, and liked.
To get the best deal for your company, he said, be professional, be prepared, take control with your hand gestures, posture, offer public domain information, determine the vendor motivators, seek value not price, and be competition neutral.
During sales meetings, Jones recommends to always take notes.
“Vendors don’t always like you to, but if it’s not in writing it doesn’t exist,” he said. “A verbal agreement ain’t worth the paper it’s written on.