The genius behind never logging into the software I was selling

When I started as a sales rep at Air2Web, being a salesperson with a fairly technical background, I immediately asked for a login into the software so I could start playing around and learning the software.  My boss told me that I would not receive, nor would I EVER receive a login into our software.

His reasoning?  If I started to go into the software, I would focus on HOW the software could do certain things and IF the software could do certain things in a certain way – rather than focusing my sales activities on finding the right customers and identifying their pain.

Granted, I had a sales engineer who would make sure that the things I was selling were actually possible in the software, but this tactic of my manager’s was a major stroke of genius.  In the 18 months that I was there, I was very focused on making sure I could find value for the customers.  I had enough of an understanding of what was possible in the software to make a lot of sales, but what I didn’t get concerned about was whether the way they wanted to do it was difficult or time-consuming, I only worried about selling on the basis of the value it brought the customer.

I believe that when a salesperson gets too deep into the workings of the software, he/she puts an imagined obstacle in front of themselves when they know that something the customer wants to do is not easy to do in the software, or doesn’t work 100% the way the customer is used to or accustomed to.  When I didn’t have a detailed understanding of how the software did certain things, I was forced to keep my sales conversations around what the software did for the customer in terms of their business improvement, and marketing goals, rather than focusing on how the software would accomplish their goals in detail.  Those details were handled by the sales engineer – and usually by that point, I had convinced the customer so much on the VALUE of the software, that the WAY it did it didn’t matter – even if it wasn’t exactly the way they would have wanted it.

It very easy for a salesperson to fall back on a demo, or discuss features, rather than to stay focused on the software big picture – which is the REAL reason that anyone will buy it.

This is the genius in never letting a salesperson log into the software.

  • http://rose.vc/angelnotes David S. Rose

    Whoa! That’s a heavy post! i think I understand the theory behind it, but would you (do you) go so far as that with your own sales guys??

  • Mark I LaRosa

    In order for this theory to work exactly this way, you need to have sales engineers in place – someone that can truly understand the inner workings of the software and can work that through with the customer. What we wound up doing at Air2Web was the salespeople worked the value with the decision maker – and the details of HOW it got done was done with the SE (Sales Engineer). If the SE identified something that was sold that really couldn’t be done, we would circle back and try to solve it. But, if I did my job correctly, the customer understood WHY they were doing business with us, and bought into the ultimate value that A2W was delivering – and therefore some small workarounds were usually OK.

    Currently, my sales guys don’t have that luxury and have to both serve as sales person and sales engineer. Therefore, they have to log in and understand all the inner workings of how to do everything in the software.

    That said, what I do try to teach them is that they need to really focus on selling value over function. Software can always change (and does), so what you need to make sure is that you don’t put an imagined obstacle in front of yourself regarding HOW the software does something.

    For example, in our software a customer may think that he needs a notification to work a certain way that it doesn’t. Well, we all know that we can always change and add that feature. But if they buy into the fact that Angelsoft is going to change their world like it has for so many investment groups – then living with a small change in their process is worth it.

    In an ideal world, I think I would have my sales guys use engineers and focus only on working with customers at the high level and sell value. One of the first things I did at Angelsoft was to replace the salespitch from a “walk thru the software” to a “feature overview / value of ecosystem” pitch. Given that we don’t have sales engineers, I think that my team now does a great job of selling value and showing function next.

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  • http://rose.vc/angelnotes David S. Rose

    Whoa! That's a heavy post! i think I understand the theory behind it, but would you (do you) go so far as that with your own sales guys??

  • http://rose.vc/angelnotes David S. Rose

    Whoa! That's a heavy post! i think I understand the theory behind it, but would you (do you) go so far as that with your own sales guys??

  • http://www.quotacrush.com Mark I LaRosa

    In order for this theory to work exactly this way, you need to have sales engineers in place – someone that can truly understand the inner workings of the software and can work that through with the customer. What we wound up doing at Air2Web was the salespeople worked the value with the decision maker – and the details of HOW it got done was done with the SE (Sales Engineer). If the SE identified something that was sold that really couldn't be done, we would circle back and try to solve it. But, if I did my job correctly, the customer understood WHY they were doing business with us, and bought into the ultimate value that A2W was delivering – and therefore some small workarounds were usually OK.

    Currently, my sales guys don't have that luxury and have to both serve as sales person and sales engineer. Therefore, they have to log in and understand all the inner workings of how to do everything in the software.

    That said, what I do try to teach them is that they need to really focus on selling value over function. Software can always change (and does), so what you need to make sure is that you don't put an imagined obstacle in front of yourself regarding HOW the software does something.

    For example, in our software a customer may think that he needs a notification to work a certain way that it doesn't. Well, we all know that we can always change and add that feature. But if they buy into the fact that Angelsoft is going to change their world like it has for so many investment groups – then living with a small change in their process is worth it.

    In an ideal world, I think I would have my sales guys use engineers and focus only on working with customers at the high level and sell value. One of the first things I did at Angelsoft was to replace the salespitch from a “walk thru the software” to a “feature overview / value of ecosystem” pitch. Given that we don't have sales engineers, I think that my team now does a great job of selling value and showing function next.

  • http://www.quotacrush.com Mark I LaRosa

    In order for this theory to work exactly this way, you need to have sales engineers in place – someone that can truly understand the inner workings of the software and can work that through with the customer. What we wound up doing at Air2Web was the salespeople worked the value with the decision maker – and the details of HOW it got done was done with the SE (Sales Engineer). If the SE identified something that was sold that really couldn't be done, we would circle back and try to solve it. But, if I did my job correctly, the customer understood WHY they were doing business with us, and bought into the ultimate value that A2W was delivering – and therefore some small workarounds were usually OK.

    Currently, my sales guys don't have that luxury and have to both serve as sales person and sales engineer. Therefore, they have to log in and understand all the inner workings of how to do everything in the software.

    That said, what I do try to teach them is that they need to really focus on selling value over function. Software can always change (and does), so what you need to make sure is that you don't put an imagined obstacle in front of yourself regarding HOW the software does something.

    For example, in our software a customer may think that he needs a notification to work a certain way that it doesn't. Well, we all know that we can always change and add that feature. But if they buy into the fact that Angelsoft is going to change their world like it has for so many investment groups – then living with a small change in their process is worth it.

    In an ideal world, I think I would have my sales guys use engineers and focus only on working with customers at the high level and sell value. One of the first things I did at Angelsoft was to replace the salespitch from a “walk thru the software” to a “feature overview / value of ecosystem” pitch. Given that we don't have sales engineers, I think that my team now does a great job of selling value and showing function next.

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  • http://senatorclub.co/ Ian Adams

    This was a great read Mark. I love real sales stories. This one totally flips traditional logic on its head. I wonder what performance would be across a large sample of salespeople.

  • http://www.quotacrush.com Mark I LaRosa

    Ian, Thanks! Its a great question, but I think if you have the right structure in place, it will work well. The overarching concept I’m talking about here is focusing on the problem and the prospect – rather than the demo of the product – and when you force the salespeople to talk about the problem – they gain the insights that will help them close.

    I think that should hold up.

    I appreciate you reading! This post is 6 years old – but it is still one of my favorites. I have more like this across the site, and in my book.

  • http://senatorclub.co/ Ian Adams

    I’m reading through some of it right now.