Nobody is buying PLM. PLM projects are usually “sold” to customers. And this is not an easy job. Many of PLM sales individuals I know are not having formal sales training and coming with manufacturing and engineering background. I wanted to share some of my experience in interviewing manufacturing companies and discussion PLM with them. So, this specific blog is mostly addressing potential challenges of qualifying potential buyers of PLM system or services.
In the past, I shared my thoughts about PLM sales – PLM sales cheat sheet; Why PLM sales are stuck in organizational politics; How to practice an extreme PLM sales listening.
1. Time commitment qualification
Manufacturing companies are hate committing to PLM projects. For most of them, current state can be endless and for sure can continue another 6-12 months. While it is good for them, for PLM sales team 12 months is a killer. So, the first thing you need to do is to qualify time frame by asking “Is it a bad time to have PLM sales meeting?” The negative question is intense, but as I learned can give much more power in no-oriented questions since it has less chance to push people in defensive position. Additional important qualification questions to be asked are related to identify other projects that can influence the decision – CAD system purchase, ERP implementation, IT system and priorities.
2. Current situation discovery
Every single company is doing PLM. But not all of them are ready to call it PLM. So, regardless on the fact company is using PLM system or not, people in the company are running product development process, sharing information, controlling process, getting approval and shipping products out of the gate. Ask them how do they do it today? However, to make this question work as magic ask – Are you happy with your current product development (aka PLM) and manufacturing (aka ERP) processes? Then get silent and listen. Most of people will talk non-stop 15-20 min after that. You can do a big service for you if you will ask to bring current BOM spreadsheets, ECO charts and reports. This is a really the most valuable information for you.
3. Get answers about desired PLM strategy from your potential client
You don’t have magically discover what company wants from PLM project. It is much easier just to get answers from people in the room by asking ‘if you could create an idea situation what would you change in your product development (PLM) processes’? This is very open ended question and often I’ve seen people are afraid to ask it. However, this is another magical question that will help you to unblock you prospect and tell how to achieve an ideal future. This question creates a hypothetical situation and second it helps to create a connection between what working and what isn’t working. It will create a link between imaginary solution and future reality. It is a trick that engage prospect to use its imagination. You can speak about industry PLM project and provoke user to react on top line PLM projects promoted by industry marketers.
PLM sales strategies
PLM sales are complex, expensive and long projects. They require time, energy and strategy to build a situation in which manufacturing company will agreed to pay for PLM software, consulting and implementation services. Among multiple strategies used by PLM sales teams, the most effectives are related to reference projects in which you provide a reference to a similar implementation or so- called pilot sales project. The last one means to get into pilot project by any cost and show the performance of the project. The last one is one of the most widely used these days. It brings me again to remind you about potential to change future PLM business by changing fundamental PLM business models and paradigms
What is my conclusion? You can only sell PLM successfully by submerging yourself into customer environment, getting into details nuts and bolts of their product development, processes and challenges. The more you learn during this first meeting is better because it will give you an absolute power to come with a second meeting and communicate your proposal using terms, priorities and examples you learned before. Just my thoughts, but also experience…
Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.