Blockchain, AI, machine learning and other emerging technologies can revolutionise your organisation and streamline business processes – marketing soundbites like these are often used to promote and sell cutting-edge enterprise technology. However, you shouldn’t rely on them to drive successful tech sales, and businesses that easily fall for the hype also fall out of it just as easily.
In order to effectively sell tech and blockchain solutions to businesses, a more comprehensive approach is needed; one that accounts for the regulatory and business trends of the industry you’re selling to, that clearly maps out how the client can harness real value from buying your solutions.
Don’t treat blockchain as just a tech buzzword with which to inflate your press releases. If you can show your prospective buyer how the technology can create new business opportunities and customer segments using documented success stories, you’ll have a much easier time getting them on board. They’re also more likely to stay on board, which gives you a solid clientele, both for your current and future prospects.
Even if you’re an expert on the technology you’re selling, would you be confident in succeeding if you went to the negotiating table without understanding your customers or the problems they’re facing? Before you open or close any sales, make sure you understand not only the client you’re speaking to, but also the industry they’re in. Take note also of the overall trends affecting that industry. These factors affect buyers’ outlook and can easily make or break your pitch if you don’t account for them.
If you’re transitioning into the enterprise or blockchain tech space where the stakes are higher, you’ll need to understand more than just what buyers are thinking. You’d also need knowledge of what’s going on in their industry or even where and how they’re using their IT budgets. Armed with this information, you can make your sale in language that appeals to them while identifying the criteria they use to measure success and failure. This shows them that you are aware of the situation and issues they face, boosting their confidence in your tech solution being able to meet their needs.
When dealing with enterprise sales, you also need to be clear about the value offered by the software before you can convey this to your customers. On their end, customers will analyse your tech solution’s total cost of ownership. They’ll then arrive at a value measurement before deciding to go through with the sale, or opting for a cheaper alternative.
As you refine your pitch in this way, you also need to get a sense of the problems your technology claims to solve, and how it can be done with the inventory of toolkits that you possess. If your software solution has features that can be deployed to solve these problems, convey this to the customer to sweeten the value proposition.
Even automobile companies today are offering greater customisation options, from the paint coating to the type of leather used in the seats. Likewise, in the B2B space, your software should be tailored to customers’ requirements, and they in turn should be made aware of the options available for them to pick and choose from.
Adjusting your messaging and pitch delivery to be more relatable to the customer is a great sales theory, but how exactly should you get started, especially when reaching out to customers in unfamiliar industries?
Perhaps you’ve decided on a potential buyer in the insurance industry, but the sector at large is still behind the curve on technology, with too much paper-based documentation and a lack of digitisation. However, there are forward-looking insurers adopting new tech and making cool breakthroughs with it.
Start with fundamentals – do research to learn about the trends in the industry, then expand your knowledge by reading annual reports of companies to understand their strategic view for the long-term: how they have been performing, the key metrics they look at to evaluate success, and how their performance stacks up against their peers. This will help you to not only understand the context that drives the customer and feeds their motivations, but also the industry that they operate in.
Even as you do this, there will be some gaps of knowledge regarding the state of the company and industry. To fill these gaps, you should talk to friends in the industry. Get connected with people who know more about the industry than you do, even if they are not your end buyers.
The same applies to talking to people in the company that may not be decision-makers, but work in adjacent functions. For instance, if you are selling to the head of a business unit or a product line in an insurance company, you might also want to talk to their IT and procurement people for insights on how the buying process works in the companies and what they take into consideration. While they may not be the one to sign off and approve the buy, don’t count them out as they’re aware of what’s going on and how things work.
Indeed, you may be selling directly to a business owner, but you also have to ensure that the business’s risk and compliance, IT and procurement teams are comfortable with you and your product offerings. Even if the owner is persuaded by your solution, the deal may fall through if one of these other players push against it.
Good salespeople also know how to get more information from the clients they’re trying to sell to. Tech solutions are not cookie-cutter, especially at the B2B level, and in the first few rounds of discussions with your customers you’ll want to figure out what’s on their minds. For example, they may have budget considerations to deal with, and identifying this concern will help you plan your next steps. Such variables underline the importance of understanding the buying process.
In essence, and particularly with emerging technology and enterprise software, bridging the gap between your solutions and customers in unfamiliar industries heavily rests on understanding how they gauge value, the industry trends that affect them, and how they go through the buying process.
Across several industries, acceptance of blockchain and emerging tech is on the upswing – there are some broad trends encouraging this and making these technologies more appealing to businesses.
One key factor is proactive engagement by industry regulators. Good regulators are beginning to study and experiment with such technology to understand their impact on the industry. In the finance industry, central banks in the Asia-Pacific region like the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Bank of Thailand and the Reserve Bank of Australia are launching pilot programmes and proofs of concept, even considering taking the technology to production-grade usage.
In order to better define regulations governing the use of emerging technologies, forward-looking regulators are trying to understand the tech and its practical usage and to assess its capabilities, identify possible risks and pinpoint aspects that would need regulation.
Backed by the actions, validation and approval of such regulators, more businesses are adopting new technology. If a regulator like the Bank of Thailand has tested and given the go-ahead for a tech solution, then another bank in the country might be a lot more comfortable with implementing it. With the regulator’s blessing, they won’t worry about being fined or slapped with a compliance action by going down this new route.
The influence of governments is also significant in expanding the tech marketplace. A talk by the Chinese President on developing a blockchain or digital currency for the country elevated awareness and fuelled many discussions on the emerging technologies. Governments’ push for technology can create powerful positive ripple effects, as their validation gives businesses in local markets a level of comfort to take more risks and opt for breakthrough technology.
Beyond the top-down example-setting by regulators and governments, evidence of successful use cases by fellow industry players is another key factor spurring businesses’ greater adoption of emerging technology. People are coming to the realisation that such technologies are not merely fluff, conceptual or marketing talk – there are companies that have implemented them in the right way to deliver real value.
Blockchain first debuted in the business world as a trendy talking point representing a solution for everything, but as time passed, its hype has shrunk, and what’s left behind is a clearer understanding of the value that it can provide. Reference cases of regulators and other businesses can drive adoption of emerging technologies by building confidence in customers who may hesitate to embrace new solutions.
For instance, if you’re trying to sell to smaller banks in the Asia-Pacific region, you can point to the experiences of bigger banks like Standard Chartered or HSBC leading the way by going through the hoops, validating the usage of the technology and receiving approval from their risk and compliance, IT and procurement teams. The big players have assessed the technology and feel that it is worth implementing. This knowledge might encourage your customers to consider doing the same.
As more companies drive the value of emerging technology by using them effectively, others will begin to consider how they can gain value by integrating the same technology into their operations or with their own counterparts. This leads to a self-perpetuating cycle – successful use cases encourage more businesses to adopt tech solutions, leading to more successful use cases being produced.
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Chief Information and Services Officer | Former Chief Operating Officer, APAC