fighting the lack of good ideas


I am a huge believer in unsales. And not in the pharmaceutical industry sense.

Because “shipping is a feature“, and because I intensely dislike the “do it for me, then hand me the keys” mentality, I routinely follow the unsales methodology.

What is unsales? It is [almost] only selling what a customer can use today. I want to give a customer something they can both use and play with. I want to give them something at the end of any engagement that does actually accomplish something. But I don’t want to do everything for them – I want them to learn, explore, and discover their own use cases. As they discover what can be done with the tools they’ve purchased, they can start to engage in the paradigmatic shift from “automating” to “automation“. And as they explore, discover, and build, they’ll start to see where further services, training, or products can be brought in to do more.

Some people believe in the “moneyball” approach – sell everything (especially the big-ticket, high-margin products), and then let the customer more-or-less fend for themselves after some extended period of services work.

This is good for the vendor doing the selling … but only this quarter. If you sell “everything”, you have no basis to come back to the customer. You’ve developed no relationship. You’ve only “made a sale”. You’ve followed the Walmart model – sell what you can, when you can.

The better model, in my opinion, is the relational model wherein you spend time getting to know the customer’s employees: the engineers, managers, officers, etc. Get to know them personally, and become someone they can turn to as a “trusted advisor” regarding their pain points.

Relational selling (and working, for that matter) tend to lead towards long-term partnerships, engagements, repeat business, etc.

You can take the short-term view, or you can take the long-term view. One yields consistent returns, one may only ever give a single return.

Be relational.

the failure of the technical sales cycle in enterprise software

Specifically in the realm of data center management and automation software, but applicable to all other niches, sales people are too focused on this quarter, their commission, and getting ink on the page.

In the broader context of the software companies producing tools / products, there is a general focus of getting to the next customer – forgetting about the ones they have now – so they can use previous sales as pressure to get you to buy, too.

And there is a perennial problem with having “products” which are at best half-baked trying to be shoehorned into a role for which they were never intended, or that the customer really doesn’t need.

For example – the growing prevalence of “cloud computing”. Cloud computing – which is really utility computing, an idea 60+ years old – is a useful endeavour … for some companies in some contexts. On-demand creation of compute resources to handle busy times, testing software, etc is a wonderful idea (all of the *aaS acronyms come in here – IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, DBaaS … what have I missed?). However, hopping on the cloud bandwagon just because everyone else is doing it is dumb.

Not everyone needs cloud computing and services. Some/many may and should employ them, but they’re not for everyone (an unpopular statement at this particular date).

Some companies will not need the “on-demand” aspects of ‘cloud’, and therefore should not have cloud-specific tools.

For example, if you want to do long-term provisioning (greater than, say, 6 months), you are not doing “cloud”, you are doing normal provisioning. If you want this to be subscription-based (like cloud offerings usually are), use a subscriptioning tool – don’t use cloud provisioning software.

Sales is an important part of software development – without sales (of some kind), there is no way to pay for development.

But it is absolutely vital to understand a customer’s environment, needs, wants, and abilities before selling them anything! Does a mom & pop shop with 8 systems need management tools? Maybe…but probably not. How about a company with 30 servers and 100 desktops? Possibly – but “enterprise” solutions will most likely be out of their budget.

Sales folks: learn your customers, become their friend, a trusted advisor – someone they want to write large checks to.