Everyone loves having a great product and great salespeople. When it comes to B2B technology products, if had to pick one over the other, I’d pick having great salespeople over a great product any day of the week.
If history has taught us anything, having great salespeople and a great sales process is more important than having the best product. It doesn’t matter how good your product is in B2B, if you don’t have great salespeople (or at least better than your competition) you will be outgunned and defeated.
Coming from the startup world, my first company was at a huge disadvantage when we entered the game. We were underfunded and our product was inferior at the time (even though it bugs me to admit that!) We ended up winning because sales was built into the culture of the company and our salespeople (including us as founders) did a much better job selling than the competition.
Let’s look at one of my favourite examples, Oracle. Oracle’s database products were famously buggy and likened to “roach motels”. Their databases even lost data! In short, they had an inferior product that wasn’t close to being the best option available. But Larry Ellison’s “close business at all costs” mentality in the ‘80s led to building a sales culture and sales team that was very successful. Although their sales tactics were aggressive and even a tad over the top at times, they won in the market with an inferior product.
Why do I think superior salespeople will beat a better product in B2B? Simply, the B2B sales process is a lot more complex with more steps involved. With more complexity in a sale, the power shifts much further from plain vanilla product specs to superior salesmanship. When’s the last time a B2B product was bought solely based on specs? A B2B sale includes demo-ing, evaluation, procurement, plus many additional steps. Let’s look closer at the demo. Even if one product is vastly superior to another, you only get a limited amount of time to showcase features. A good salesperson (and sales process) can completely destroy a better product with a better presentation and demo. If there’s a better product out there, a good salesperson has so many opportunities in the sales process to take that product off its mantel.
This isn’t just my opinion either: CEB found 53% of customer loyalty was based on the sales experience, not product innovation, service delivery, or price-to-value ratio. And sales is only predicted to become even more important in the future – a Gartner survey found 89% of companies plan to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience by 2016.
Of course, I am not saying a great product isn’t important – it is (we’re lucky here at Ideal Candidate to have both!) But if I had to bet on one or the other, I’d bet on salespeople.
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