Some products are bought. Think about milk, gas, pain medicine, airplane tickets. The vendor just need to let know potential users about the product and someone will come across to buy it. However, other products are sold – cars, insurance, engineering and enterprise software. That was true for many years. If no sales person is present, nothing will happen. The most dangerous thing when company is confused about their products. If you are not sure if your product or service is bought or sold, it can be a dangerous mistake.
PLM sales is one of the topics that usually drives lot of controversy and discussions. Few years ago I posted about PLM sales cheat sheet. I still love this blog and recommend it to everyone who is trying to sell PLM (or any enterprise) system to manufacturing company. One of the topic I discussed there is about how to sell to engineers.
PLM sales people’s dream was always to sell to execs and C-level. That what can make you important and help you to reassure your sales. PLM was gradually shifting to sell to C-level. You probably heard these messages – PLM will support innovation. PLM will drive product development. Even more… PLM can help you to stay out of jail. All these messages are targeting important C-level buyers. Is there an alternative way to sell to large organizations?
Mattermark blog – How a Bottom-up Approach Can Help You Sell to the Big Guys brings an interesting perspective on how focus on end users can help you sell to large companies. Here is my favorite passage:
Enterprise sales reps typically have taken a top-down approach, talking to C-level executives since they’re the gatekeepers of the budget. But in the last decade, we’ve seen a shift to a bottom-up model that puts employees first and empowers them to encourage company-wide adoption of a tool. Instead of targeting VP-level or C-suite executives, salespeople are realizing the importance of understanding the end user and creating a strong relationship with individual employees.
Increasingly, employees are driving the adoption and purchase of technology because they love the product and convince their colleagues of the software’s value. Individual employees have encouraged their companies to use tools like Slack and Salesforce company-wide. Starting at the bottom rather than the top is a great user acquisition approach for SaaS companies. Here are three ways salespeople should connect with the end user to ultimately secure exec buy-in: 1/ Understand Specific Pain Points and Use Cases; 2/ Empower the End User to be Your Champion; 3/ Get Immediate Feedback and Improve the Product.
It made me think about how future PLM products will be sold (or bought). SaaS and subscription based PLM business models will become more dominant and will make following the path to introduce products to end users easier. Direct communication with users can help understand problems and establish direct connection and better understanding of the problem. These things will help to support and extend bottom up approach.
At the same time, enterprise organization is very much hierarchical with lot of specific processes to following. To bring PLM system and to make a direct impact on business and product development processes is hard. In many situations top-down is the only way to go. And not only top-down sales, but also bringing strategic consultant to convince company about the right PLM choice.
What is my conclusion? PLM sales is a top-down process. Few companies took a challenging path to sell PLM systems bottom up and for most of the parts it was a failure. However, new business models and SaaS software open a new door of possibilities to innovate in PLM sales. Just my thoughts…
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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