How to sell PLM to big companies

How to sell PLM to big companies


PLM sales is not an easy job. PLM is usually “sold” to companies… or actually sold to people running product development and manufacturing in these companies. I shared some of my thoughts about PLM sales in my previous posts – PLM Sales Cheat Sheet and Why hard to sell PLM ROI?

However, I want specially reference the following article – How to sell PLM to enterprise IT, which is setting a stage for my thoughts today – how software vendor is selling PLM to big companies. In my view, this is probably encounter for 99% of PLM business as of today. In most of situations, PLM software vendor, business unit or organization is selling to much larger businesses – manufacturing OEMs and suppliers.

The following article by Mark Andreesen gave me a big chunk of inspiration – The Mobi Dick theory of big companies. The article is worth reading. It helped me to identify and articulate 5 guidance principles of how to sell PLM to big companies. These are absolutely necessarily to keep in your mind if sell PLM to large OEM and just big manufacturing companies.

1. Set yourself for a very long sales cycle (months or even years).

Be extremely patient. Big companies play “hurry up and wait” all the time. It is probably going to take a lot longer to put together than you think.

2. Hire real sales people.

If doing deals with big companies is going to be a key part of your PLM business, be sure to hire a real sales pro who has done it before.

3. It is not done unless company is using PLM in production.

Never assume that a deal with a big company is closed until the ink hits the paper and/or the cash hits the company bank account.

4. Try to avoid bad deals

Selling to large companies can often require development of additional features and long pilot projects that will involve best product and technical sales people. It will suck the energy of your organization.

5. References from another big company.

Don’t sell to large OEM by referencing small tier-n supplier. It won’t work. Be aware that big companies care a lot more about what other big companies are doing than what any small company or startup are doing.

However, my absolutely favorite passage from Marc Andreesen’s post is the following one. It gives you a good picture of what will influence PLM sales decision process :

The consensus building process, trade-offs, quids pro quo, politics, rivalries, arguments, mentorships, revenge for past wrongs, turf-building, engineering groups, product managers, product marketers, sales, corporate marketing, finance, HR, legal, channels, business development, the strategy team, the international divisions, investors, Wall Street analysts, industry analysts, good press, bad press, press articles being written that you don’t know about, customers, prospects, lost sales, prospects on the fence, partners, this quarter’s sales numbers, this quarter’s margins, the bond rating, the planning meeting that happened last week, the planning meeting that got cancelled this week, bonus programs, people joining the company, people leaving the company, people getting fired by the company, people getting promoted, people getting sidelined, people getting demoted, who’s sleeping with whom, which dinner party the CEO went to last night, the guy who prepares the Powerpoint presentation for the staff meeting accidentally putting your (company) name in too small a font to be read from the back of the conference room…

What is my conclusion? Selling PLM to big company is more science than a procedure. The way current PLM paradigms and technologies are set, company is buying PLM and defining the way to manage product development processes using PLM technologies. It is painful, because this process is supposed to change the way people do business. However, in a big company you are dealing also with extreme level of organization complexity. We cannot change big companies, but we can change PLM paradigms to convert PLM sales into repeatable process. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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  • Oleg thanks for the sales pitch. For me when you say How to sell PLM to big companies, the first thing that comes to my mind is that you do not sell PLM to big companies, you sell either a business transformation (modern PLM) or you sell a solution to collaborate around the product lifecycle (classic PLM)

    In the first approach the PLM product is the last thing to worry about. Building a vision can take a long time.If the vision is developed together with a PLM vendor (or implementer with some preferred PLM software in their portfolio) you know the answer and most of the time not the real business transformation. For me PLM is not a sales process it is a strategic consultancy and coaching process, leading to later a PLM selection.
    In the second approach (classic PLM) the customer might drive the needs and that’s where your recommendations better fit as conceptually in this case it is more about finding a best fit, dealing with all the complexity to give every stakeholder the feeling there is something in that solution for them. Here an excellent (solution) sales person, who understands who are the influencers and can talk with them in a way they feel value from the meetings, is important.
    Too often I have seen sales people that jumped too fast to the solution, either to satisfy one stakeholder’s comment or because the sales person did not have the broader message.
    Of course a little black-and-white, trying to illustrate the differences between the two types of PLM sales for big companies.
    Below a slide from a lecture I gave a year ago, describing the challenges for some of the stakeholders in the PLM selection process and their influence

  • beyondplm

    Jos, thanks for sharing your insight! Here is my favorite part –> “you do not sell PLM to big companies, you sell either a business transformation (modern PLM) or you sell a solution to collaborate around the product lifecycle (classic PLM)”. PLM vendors (current and future) should re-think the way PLM implementations are done, so PLM vendors will be happy selling tools and somebody else (consulting?) will be happy selling solutions and working on strategy. Today all these things together are big PLM implementation “greek salad”.

  • Matts Frigian

    Great work done. Really nice written.

  • beyondplm

    Matts, thank you!