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…
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