The 3 Biggest Mistakes “Tech People” Make When Selling – And How To Fix Them

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Wait a minute, you may be wondering – why do tech people have to sell to begin with? Shouldn’t they just stick to what they’re good at and leave the selling to the “pros”?

Those in the real world know there are plenty of cases when a technical-background person will be called upon to sell.

This might be an IoT startup founder pitching his pride and joy to a potential investor, a software developer selling himself to a potential overseas client, or even an engineer trying to get buy-in for a new initiative internally.

Tech people can and necessarily often have to sell. We see this all the time with our clients – whether they are software outsourcers trying to gain the trust of a prospect 9 time zones away, or a hot startup trying to secure the funding to launch his baby into the stratosphere.

So what are the biggest pitfalls for a STEM-background individual when trying to get party B to sign off on the dotted line? And how can techies tweak their approach to overcome and conquer these hangups? Keep reading to discover:

1. They Sell the Features, not the IDEA

One of the biggest mistakes in sales, is assuming that the things you care about are what your client cares about too.

You may think your product or service has the coolest features ever, and if only the prospect could SEE those features, they’d agree too, and start backing up the dump truck full of cash (“look out below!”).

The problem is that no matter how cool your product is, it doesn’t matter if the client hasn’t bought the IDEA first. If there’s no need on the prospect side – or you haven’t done enough to discover it – it doesn’t matter how flashy and awesome your thingy is. They don’t care. You may have the sexiest broom on the market, but if my house is wall-to-wall carpet, it doesn’t matter.

The Fix: To solve this, we need to re-orient our approach. Features and functionalities need to come later in your process [link to other article – all underlined words should like internally to related content] – usually it’s step #3 (after making first contact and selling the idea).

Are you asking the right questions to get the prospect to open up and share their pains and problems with you?  But before you do that, are you even establishing trust effectively, so they feel open enough to share with you?

Doing these things isn’t rocket science. But just like when you’re coding or creating the latest iteration of your device, you need a process and an idea of what you are trying to accomplish, in order to be effective.

2. They’re all business, all the time

Sorry guys, just to lay a little stereotype on the table – people who deal with computers, code and formulas are not always the most outgoing or socially spectacular individuals.

While you may be the life of the party and love engaging other people, if you’re not, it’s okay. Just don’t make the mistake of skipping rapport and not connecting with your prospect.

If you’re selling a service where you’ll be working together for a long time, or even selling your project to an investor, these are long-term relationships, often with large sums of cash involved.

In fact, according to [link to study], the most important factor for investors when it comes to evaluating potential projects, is not necessarily the technology or the business plan, but the team.

Showing that you have some skill beyond hard abilities will gain the confidence of the other side that you’ll be a good ambassador for your project, or at the least a pleasant person to deal with that isn’t going to complicate my life.

Quite often in our practice, we see tech people – especially in former Soviet bloc and communist countries – being very strong on the tech side and “all business” in the meeting. They go right to the concretes, without allowing a little time to “warm up” the relationship and show themselves as human.

The Fix: “Humanize” yourself by spending some time on rapport. Don’t jump straight to business. Especially if you’re dealing with a member of a x-context culture who probably appreciates some small talk before getting down ‘n’ dirty.

And if the above hasn’t satisfied the logical mindset as to why we must do this – there is a rational purpose for this. You need to get the client used speaking with you about non-important things – like the weather or what-have-you – before he’ll feel comfortable opening up about challenges that you might be able to solve.

Again, success here depends on having the right framework and process.

3. They speak “Techese”, no matter the audience

When we land in a stressful, uncomfortable situation, we tend to revert to what we know best. It’s natural. And for tech people asked to sell, this means they go right to “talking tech”.

This is a mistake. Especially if the person is not a tech person. Talk too techy with these guys, and you’ll soon see drooping eyelids or people checking their phones.

But even if the other side is not “techie”, this can still be an error. Why? Well, even tech people have needs and pains – and the reason they’re meeting you is not necessarily to learn about your product’s beautiful innards, but about how it can solve his pain.

If you start off speaking about all the amazing technical pieces of your product, you might impress the tech person on the other side of the table – but you won’t be on the way to figuring out the ways your product or service might actually help him. Because you won’t have him talking about his issues in real-world terms.

The Fix: To solve this, tailor your message and language to your audience. How can you describe what your product does in terms your aunt Matilda could understand? Think of it in that way, and you are on the right track.

Also, remember #1 above. Figure out the other person’s problem first by asking the right questions. Save the tech-talk and features for later – for the Solution Presentation step of your sales framework. Technical details can impress the other side…but they should be used to reinforce the message that you can solve the prospect’s problem.

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