The Standard Tech Industry Sales Pitch

The tech industry is full of people, companies and organisations that want your attention, your custom and your money. There are so many of them out there it’s mind-boggling – so how does one go about standing out from the crowd? The winners are the ones that can differentiate themselves from the rest – the ones that grab your attention and keep hold of it from first contact through sales pitch and on to sale. But the funny thing is that the more people (and companies) try to stand out, the more they often sound the same. I guess we’re not all that different after all…

team

I work in a sales organisation in the tech industry, so I not only get to see a lot of marketing material and sales pitches but I also have to write and deliver them. I am in no way claiming to be better than the rest here, but since it’s the start of a new year and everyone is gearing up to win new business, let’s have a look at the standard tech industry pitch and see just how similar everyone’s messages are. I thought it would be more interesting than just adding my voice to the chorus of 2013 predictions…

Let’s say you are a company which makes some sort of data-related product: software to access, analyse or consume data; hardware to store, accelerate or process it. Maybe you make cloud-enabled big data in-memory analytical engines for social-networking in the mobile era. It doesn’t matter – the rules are always the same. Here’s the template to which you must conform, with all the necessary stock phrases and bullet points:

1/ Paint a picture of a new era in which existing tech cannot deliver.

ApplicationsKey phrase: “We live in a world where…

Bullet points:

..unprecedented volumes of data, exponential growth, Moores Law
..mobile, social, Nexus of Forces, the Internet of Things
..big data, business intelligence, analytics
..heightened customer expectations, real-time data
..performance, accelerationinnovation

It always helps in this section if you can reference some sort of independent research to backup your theory, preferably from the likes of Gartner or IDC. For example, Gartner says Big Data will drive $34 billion of IT spending in 2013.

2/ Describe the purgatory in which customers are currently trapped.

frustratedKey phrase: “CIOs are being asked to do more with less

Bullet points:

..economic pressures
..tightened budgets
..restricted operational expenditure
..limited investment but increasing demands
..aging and complex infrastructure
..legacy, legacy, legacy
..silos, sprawl, management overhead

3/ (Optional) Why other vendors and methods cannot deliver.

failKey phrase: “Legacy approaches are not working”

Bullet points:

..lacking innovation
..unable to cope with modern demands
..wrong direction

You might even want to run some adverts criticising the opposition and showing off how much better you are… although to be fair that’s not standard practice unless you are a certain database company.

4/ Tada! We have the solution and we can now solve all of your problems.

puzzleKey phrase: “An innovative new way of thinking”

Bullet points:

..performance, increased agility, lower costs
..better return on investment, lower total cost of ownership
..leverage existing investments, increase utilisation
..reduce overheads, management costs, deployment times
..cloud-enabled, mobile, social, big data, real-time, in-memory

5/ Nobody else can do this, so don’t even waste time looking.

puzzle-keyKey phrase: “Our unique product / service / solution”

Bullet points:

..broad portfolio for your unique requirements
..best of breed, turnkey, converged infrastructure/systems
..unified management
..pre-configured, pre-integrated, workload-optimized
..one throat to choke

That’s it. Stick to this recipe and you should be able to merge in nicely with everyone else who is trying to give the same message. And just for fun, here’s a perfect example of someone following the above script…

A happy and prosperous 2013 to you all.

5 Responses to The Standard Tech Industry Sales Pitch

  1. dmaz3 says:

    Very true. The question is, how do you as a product vendor NOT do this? As I work for an integrator, we get to see every vendor’s pitch (including your example, HP), and they’re all very much the same. Our approach, is: “Forget products, let’s talk about your business, your industry, and general tech trends (i.e. what others are doing/seeing)”.

    • flashdba says:

      That’s a great question. It’s easy to poke fun at everyone rolling out the same pitch, but how does one go about being truly different?

      For me the answer is about challenging the conventional ways of thinking. In our case, flash as a product – and Violin in particular – is a new opportunity which means a) being able to do things you couldn’t do before, and b) no longer needing to do things you were compelled to do before. What those things are… well I can come up with ideas, but it’s the customer / partner / pitch recipient who will really have that information. So if a sales meeting opens up into a debate about what can be done differently then I see it as a success. If it’s just me telling them how great our product is and giving them stock examples then it’s been a failure.

      • dmaz3 says:

        Agreed. Ultimately, what I as a partner, and our customers, tend to focus on is real-world examples. How did another company similar to mine benefit from a product/technology?

  2. To me the responses above are not incorrect but the differentiators stem from understanding (you and they) outcomes, which only comes from understanding their business and their sector… and from listening!

    • flashdba says:

      Daniel, you make a valid point: it’s about understanding. And you can only understand if you listen!

      In the past I have been in sales meetings where the (potential) customer asks questions about the (potential) vendor’s company, products and/or services. If the salesperson is too focussed on the end result, i.e. a purchase order, it becomes as if these questions are loose threads in a piece of fine clothing – they must be caught and tied off at the earliest opportunity, otherwise the quality of the product/service and the prestige of the vendor could be tarnished. Any new questions or observations are dealt with immediately and closed down in order to concentrate on getting home and dry.

      As I see it, in reality anything the customer says is an opportunity for an open discussion, for understanding their business, their values and any requirements they might have from a new vendor. That’s why in my opinion a standard n-slide Powerpoint-based sales pitch can be a blessing and curse: if a meeting is failing to flow then it can be beneficial to have some rigid structure to fall back on, but it ought to be shelved at the first sign of any open discussion in order to nurture a relationship between guest and host. Because that relationship is surely the ultimate goal of the meeting, not the purchase order.

      In a previous role I once witnessed a sales colleague close off a customer who was trying to describe their problem, simply because it appeared he (predictably, it was a he) wanted to get to the end of his extensive slide deck. I’m certainly not fault-free and have made enough mistakes of my own to write a book about, but I found that embarrassing to the point of being almost physically painful. It’s therefore one sin I aim never to make! It’s what an ex-CEO and mentor of mine calls the “Crocodile Salesman”:

      http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2010/02/03/the-danger-of-crocodile-sales/

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