The Two Types of Tech Companies and How Each Should Sell

Author: 
Adam Boggs and Andrew Dornon

Ironically, the engineering advantages that distinguish many technology firms in the marketplace can be one of the biggest detriments to selling. Whether companies operate as innovators in their respective technology fields who drive the marketplace (technology leaders) or focus and develop in a specific niche market (focused players), tech organizations can get bogged down by these advantages without having defined sales processes, leading to struggles with conversion.

Successful technology companies, on the other hand, aim to reach customers and clients through a particular scope. By accurately identifying who they are and what they offer, they can better evaluate how to sell, whom to hire, and which sales initiatives to pursue, leading to stronger results and more viability in the increasingly dynamic marketplace.

How to Know and Own the Right Market

Modern buyers are savvy and look beyond value, so companies should categorize themselves according to the markets they most influence and segment customers according to how they buy. Epicor, for example, has long been a steady force in the enterprise software world as a focused player. It has developed niche expertise and homed in on middle-market retail, distribution, and manufacturing to outsell its larger and less nimble competitors.

In determining their companies’ definitions, leaders should ask themselves two questions: Does the brand have an obvious technology advantage, and are there specific industries and markets where the solution is strongly preferred? Having answered these questions, leaders can use the following strategies to maximize their sales teams’ potential:

1. Technology Leaders

These companies combine superior technology and brand recognition to own the market, often producing products that others try to replicate. Tesla, with its online ordering and dealership-free model for next-gen vehicles, is a prime example.

The way you need to sell – Sellers at technology leaders need to get in front of more buyers, disqualify bad leads quickly, and streamline the process for qualified buyers to transform lead volume into conversions. Such companies focus on scale and speed in order to capitalize on their broad technical advantages.

The way your people can accomplish that selling – The best way to achieve this streamlined model is to start with a large funnel. Websites should offer guided selling and accessible FAQs to help readers do most of the research themselves before spending time with a sales rep. Sales processes should also be discrete, utilizing a clear playbook on actionable steps and marketing collateral that demonstrates success in head-to-head pitches.

Who makes the best sellers – Successful sales teams include a mix of technology experts and salespeople. Given this range, these companies don’t require much prior experience from their salespeople. As long as recruits are willing to put the process first — and the process itself is sound — they can succeed in this system.

2. Focused Players

Unlike technology leaders, focused players rely on niche expertise to give them a marketplace advantage. That expertise can be technical or operational and range from specific functionality to tailored options for companies of a certain size.

The way you need to sell – Though they often compete against technology leaders, these companies sell to smaller cohorts of devoted consumers, acknowledging their limitations while pressing their advantages. For this reason, focused players must demonstrate thorough understandings of buyers’ needs and be able to communicate why their companies offer the best options. Subaru, for example, follows this process well, leveraging its all-wheel drive advantage and pressing that differentiator in a growing U.S. market for such vehicles.

The way your people can accomplish that selling – Sales leadership and enablement should collaborate with marketing to render insights, messaging, and buyer personas defined by clear customer types and territories. Ultimately, deep customer understandings and industry acumen are at the core of the sales process, as these qualities distinguish focused players by transforming selling into a consultation that accommodates frequent customer-need adjustments.
 
Who makes the best sellers – Because every department must be unified on brand differentiators, salespeople should have a thorough understanding of the industry to facilitate compelling conversations that drive conversions. Experienced salespeople with existing relationships perform best, but teams who recruit fresh talent can use veterans to bolster new sellers’ skills.

When a Blended Approach Is Needed

While these two types of companies rarely clash in terms of selling processes, if one acquires the other to expand or create a conglomerate player, then leaders need to work toward a blended technique — i.e., quickly approaching markets when there’s a distinct technology advantage but using sector expertise to promote product cross-selling when necessary. Otherwise, strategies will argue, productivity will slip, and opportunities will fade.

The technology industry, given its volatility and scale, certainly comes with inherent selling challenges. But leaders who appropriately classify their companies and know which strategies perform best will not only better equip their sales teams, but will also better position their organizations for continued success.

Adam Boggs is a senior director at BTS. He helps tech sales forces like Google, Amazon, SAP, and Autodesk implement their sales strategies and motivate their salespeople to do great work every day.

Andrew Dornon is an analyst at BTS, where he helps sales organizations think about the future of selling. Previously, he co-founded and led growth and marketing efforts for a funded tech startup.