I had a great time last week at the Wisconsin VMUG vBeers event. Not only is the Wisconsin VMUG a great group of people to begin with, but I work for Coho Data who was the sponsor of the event. When you work in IT sales and your company is the sponsor for an event you are going to be giving a presentation, and the Wisconsin vBeers event was no different. I loaded up my presentation and had all of my sales materials ready. I am always eager to talk about Coho Data, because I believe in the solution, but I did not want to give the typical pitch and demo presentation to the attendees. It seems that every sponsored event takes that approach nowadays.
What was different about this event is that I gave two presentations. The second was the Coho Data presentation, and that went over very well as Coho Data definitely has an interesting and unique product. The problem is that no matter how great your company’s product is when you are giving a live presentation to technical people they need to know that you are credible. Anyone can learn a presentation deck and spit back memorized speeds and feeds. A lot of sales presentations that I have seen over the years are just that – a human puppet repeating what they were told to say by someone else.
Is the information true and accurate? The puppet cannot know. The puppet simply regurgitates a message to the masses. There are enough puppets out there that customers are understandably weary of any sales presentation. Again, your product might be the greatest thing since sliced bread but before you can sell that product you have to sell yourself. You have to establish your credibility with your audience.
How do you do that? You can talk about your education, your certifications, and your business experience, but that is merely telling people about what you can do and that is not enough. You need to show, not tell, as the old saying goes.
That is why my first presentation had absolutely nothing to do with Coho Data’s product line. My first presentation was titled “9 Free Resources for Techies” and I covered some of my favorite opensource applications, Linux appliances, and other technical resources that are free to download and use. I explained to the audience how I used these resources in my own home lab. I asked the audience if they had heard of these resources, and those that had heard of them I invited to share their own opinions with the rest of the attendees even if they differed from my own. My sales partner is a former IT engineer as well, and he fully supported this approach. He and I have sat in the customer’s seat during sales presentations, and we know that they can be a boring waste of time. We made sure that our presentation would not be boring and useless (and luckily we work for a company that empowers us to do just that).
The end result was that I gave away something of immediate value to the attendees, and if just one techie in the field is now using one of those resources to make their job easier then I have done my job. I have established personal credibility by helping others, and when it comes time for those attendees to buy storage they will remember Coho Data because they will remember me and my sales partner as real techies promoting a quality product.
This is what it takes to sell IT – a credible human connection. Give something up front to your customers before dollars are even mentioned. Prove that you are someone who is capable of solving problems, and then follow-through by solving your customer’s problems. Jeffrey Gitomer, one of my favorite authors on sales, sums it up best with “Value first, not value added.” Why wait until after the sale to add value to your customer’s purchase when with a little creativity you can give real value upfront to every customer you meet? Get your hands dirty, dig deep, and give something of real value to every customer that you meet.
I can’t wait until I the next Wisconsin VMUG event, because I’m looking forward to learning if my presentation helped others with their projects. There is nothing better than to succeed through helping others succeed, and if you you give value first you will do just that with your IT sales career!