Why is it so hard to sell PLM? Because no one gives a sh*t about PLM software…

Why is it so hard to sell PLM? Because no one gives a sh*t about PLM software…


When was the last time in the morning you woke up and said – I need to buy some PLM software today? Let me guess… never!

Here is a story… I spent most of my last year consulting companies about selection of PLM products and technologies. Lots of talks. Most of these companies were prepared to pay six figures $$ to PLM vendors. The thing I found – nobody cares about products as is. You can buy Pork Luncheon Meat (PLM) or Psychotic Leisure Music (PLM). Everything companies have tried to understand is the outcome or result of the product.

So, what does it mean?

If you sell CAD software, the outcome of the product is design. After 20+ years of moving from 2D to 3D, design is still (unfortunately and very often) is presented as 2D drawings. So, if you CAD product can give the outcome, then you are good and you can sell it.

If you sell MRP software, the outcome of the system is purchase orders and timely delivery of parts to assembly shop-floor. It is true, MRP software converted into ERP, which added all bells and whistles of enterprise software on top of MRP, but fundamentally, MRP is solving a problem of parts ordering in a timely manner.

If you sell CRM, the outcome is to bring contact information together with all history of communication about customer in front of sales people that supposed to sell products to customers. If you can do it efficiently, there is a chance sales rep will get right information in front of him at the right time and it will help him to sell. Also, sales rep will be able to focus on right customers or to get notification about his client just bought a new luxury car based on the intelligence crawled out of social media sites.

So, what is the outcome of PLM? Things are getting complicated here… PLM is stuck between engineering, planning, purchasing, manufacturing helping to organize data and processes. Connecting people is always hard. When it comes to connecting engineers with purchase and manufacturing department, things can get messy. Welcome to PLM world! Technology is easy. People are hard. The only way to help them is to delivery some measurable results.

PLM companies followed the path to discover customer problems and, as a result, added features to PLM software. The mantra to deliver a “best product” was around for the last 10-15 years. As a result, PLM products were bloated by additional features. Then the new mantra came – we need to simplify PLM (hint – to reduce number of features). I’ve been part of both processes working for PLM companies, so I’ve seen how it happened.

The lesson I learned last year after consulting companies was simple. Your customers don’t actually want to buy a PLM product. And they don’t want to buy services. They want to buy a specific outcome of your product or service work. Your product can help to company not to miss a component from bill of materials. Your product can help to find a guilty person that didn’t sign ECO and, as a result, product delivery was stuck in production. Your product can help to find an assembly you can re-use for a new project to save time. You product can help to create change report in 5 min instead of 5 hours. These are examples of measurable results.  That’s it. Customers don’t want to buy PLM product with more features. Customer is looking for a specific outcome from a specific function.

The last point is about PLM sales and marketing. To become PLM sales person, you need to be engineer and understand all engineering and manufacturing process. Therefore, you can see many engineers “upgraded” to PLM sales. If you understand engineering and manufacturing, you can nail down sales process to the following simple steps:

1/ Invite potential customer to meeting,  lunch, dinner, golf, football…

2/ Talk to a customer about current work and find what is really painful in a process/work on every day basis.

3/ Ask about big failures that caused CIO or VP level attention.

Then take a break and come with PLM software which can solve this problem. In most of cases you have a good chance to sell. Depends on the size of the company, it can take from few months to few years.

What is my conclusion? When you sell PLM, try to focus on the problem and potential outcome / result. It doesn’t mean your company shouldn’t sell a vision too. However, focusing on a specific result produced by PLM products will help you to improve overall process and demonstrate value. It is different from “managing product lifecycle process” – message written on many PLM marketing brochures today. Remember that no one gives a shit about PLM software product. Company care about their work and about solving their problems. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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.


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