Posted by Robert Bushnell on 27 March, 2012 in US - (Be the first to comment)

This is a guest post from  Niamh of MarketSprint.com (LinkedIn)  Niamh (Twitter @ TechResourcesUS) is CEO of MarketSprint, that works with Irish companies to get a foothold in the US Market. Given the amount of Irish activity in the US this month, she wanted to share the best way of engaging American clients.

How do I talk to potential customers?

Believe me, early sales are pure relationship sales. You’re the visionary, they’re the early adopter and if you have what it takes to sustain this dynamic the sale will happen.

A genuine and persistent curiosity about your customers’ work is a great starting point but the magic happens when you’ve figured out how to translate your solution into a solid prescription for their pain.

It takes time and experience to perfect customer conversations but hopefully the below is a useful guide for those of you just starting out.

  • Sell your vision – The vision is always more important than the nitty gritty of the product so make sure you’ve connected with your customer on the vision first, the rest will follow.
  • Establish your street cred – You don’t have to be an industry veteran or even an industry insider to have credibility with a new customer. Early on, tell them about yourself; where you’ve worked recently, big name clients or innovative projects you’ve worked on, investors you’re working with and anything else that will help establish you as successful and capable in their minds.
  • Come armed with value – Before each potential customer meeting, research the person and their company. Then sit quietly for a moment and ask yourself – what can I say or do to bring value to this person immediately? What insights can I deliver to them, what resources can I share with them? How can I help them right now?
  • Ask a little, listen a lot and then pitch – Establish your customer’s key pain points or motivations for the discussion first. Then customize your pitch using examples that are compatible with their worldview and experience.
  • Show don’t tell – It’s important to steer clear of formal, lecture like presentations. Instead, look for opportunities to use a visual aid like a demo, an infographic, a photo or a pie chart, or even a couple of customer logos to emphasize a point of importance.
  • Be confident – You might not be an expert but that doesn’t mean you don’t have something of value to discuss. Be well prepared, respect your customer’s time, ask the “stupid” questions you want to ask and enjoy the smart exchange of ideas.
  • Ignore initial objections at your peril - If not, they’ll come back to haunt you in a never-ending sales process death spiral! If yours is a hosted solution and your potential customer says, “We generally like to keep applications behind the firewall” do yourself a favor and find a new potential early adopter customer. There’ll be time (and resources) enough to tackle this particular opportunity again later.
  • Understand your customer’s buying process early – Develop a clear and realistic view of the hurdles involved in selling to this organization as soon as you can. Try asking about other solutions they’ve purchased, young companies they are working with, the steps they would follow if they were interested in engaging with your company. Active listening will help you immensely here, not only to get a sense of the sales cycle but also the potential of the person to bring the deal over the line for you.
  • Talk money without fixing a price – The topic of money brings lots of focus to a conversation. Its helpful to get some sense of the value you’re offering even if you’re still figuring out your price or pricing model so talk estimates, ranges, and potential payment structures, then pay close attention to the verbal and non verbal reaction.
  • Always be open to learning something new - Take the time to explore outside the realm of your solution to get a deeper insight into your customer. Ask them about other solutions they are buying or would love to buy right now if they had the budget. Be genuine in your desire to understand their work.
  • Act human – Use humor, anecdotes and personal insights where appropriate to allow the relationship connection to be made quickly and solidly.
  • At every moment be professional - A high level of professionalism and consistency in your communications will give your customer the confidence that you can deliver a winning solution regardless of how many road bumps you both hit on the way to the finish line.

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This is a guest post from John Caulfield, Solutions Director Oracle Ireland  and member of the Irish Software Association (ISA) Executive Council. This is the latest in the series of Irish Software Association and Techbrew events that EI is proud to be associated with.

As a compliment to the work that EI and the ISA have done in helping software companies use partners to win export sales, we’re focusing the next TechBrew (Thurs 9th February @ 7.00pm) on the area.  Held at 4 Dame Lane Dublin 2, TechBrew is an informal gathering of software company management and technology leaders, getting together to chat over a bite and a beer.

http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-1472104052

In between the networking and beers we’ll cover “Partnering—Is it the fastest and cheapest entry to new markets or does it ultimately cost more?”. Talk to your peers to talk about the best route to market. Find out if you are willing to sacrifice control for coverage. See how you can expand your existing markets, what models work best and identify the best partners options for different markets, and how to managing the channel. Hear practical advice, successes and pitfalls, from those who have gone before you, shared in an informal learning environment.

Confirmed to speak:

  • Donagh Kiernan, Founder and CEO, Tenego Partnering, driving international sales for high growth technology companies, through partnering. Donagh helps high growth technology companies drive international sales, through partnering. He focuisses on making current partners effective and securing new partners that are ‘best-fit’ to sell products or services in identified target markets.

If you have some practical experience to offer yourself, why not take ten minutes to share your experiences on the night.

We all need to improve our game and keep ahead of the posse, and learning more about how to grow international sales is crucial to our growth. As part of the Excel at Export Selling 2010 Workshop Series, the topic of Improving Sales Pipeline Management will be addressed at practical one-day learning workshops, for up to 10 EI Clients, on Tuesday November 2nd and Tuesday November 2nd and Tuesday November 9th. The venue is Enterprise Ireland, Eastpoint Business Park, Dublin 3.

The primary aim of the workshops is to ensure your company consistently and systematically applies a sales process and pipeline methodology, the specific objective being the achievement of sales targets on a predictable basis, and improving sales forecasting for the benefit of your company, your salespeople and your investors. It is recommended that 2-3 people per company should attend so that follow-on implementation is a shared objective.

The workshops will be presented by internationally regarded DEI Sales trainer, Michael McGowan, whose no-nonsense, straight-talking approach and outline is a primary reason for their success. If you have clients who need persuading that they should participate in, for example, International Selling 2011, then it would be no harm making them aware that several companies who took part in a 2009 one day workshop on Sales Pipeline went on to undertake the International Selling Programme in 2010. Also, for companies at an earlier stage of export growth, these workshops rigidly apply good practices from the very start. The workshops are followed within four weeks by a two-hour individual review session for each participating company. There will also be a series of follow-up telephone calls over a nine month period.

The extremely positive feedback from various companies includes:

Michael Murphy, Business Development Manager, Trustwater:

“I would recommend it to any Sales Manager / Senior Management staff, either within a new start-up or existing organisation to re-energise not only the sales  process but also the whole sales team.”

Finbarr O’Regan, CEO, Xerenet:

“I’m only sorry I didn’t attend the course three years ago. It should be mandatory for all EI clients.”

For further details and registration, click here

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