Selling Commodities to Enterprise Customers

Commodities exist in the world of enterprise business. These commodities have either tangible or intangible value. For the purposes of this post I am going to concentrate on commodities purchased for business processes, specifically software.

Unless a blanket site license is in place, or other form of exclusive provisioning agreement, successfully selling software and supporting accessories for any prevalent platform within an enterprise business, for example, MicroSoft® Office, requires much of the same effort that I have described throughout this blog with regard to complex product sales to the same type of customer. In both cases the successful sales person will legitimately partner with the customer based upon a shared commitment to attain a specific value metric within the context of an enhancement to specific processes that are core to the business, or business unit within the enterprise.

Of course, the danger in selling commodities is that the sales plan will call for a streamlined approach; specifically, an approach that will skip the task of collecting information, determining reporting lines, unearthing activities with a high cost for the customer, etc. The rationale for this type of plan is that the software platform is already built into the business; therefore, the customer has little chance of capturing significant additional value; “let’s not waste time, let’s go for the order”. Implementing this type of sales plan relegates the sale to no more than a question of price and availability. The sales person who will win the business will either have the lowest price or the quickest delivery. Yuck.

But there are still many successful sales people selling commodities who do not utilize this type of plan. As I’ve mentioned, they continue to pursue the tasks required to unearth rich and promising areas of need within the business. They understand the opportunities represented by these needs and utilize the specific characteristics of accepted computing platforms within the enterprise to deliver substantial value to their customers.

These characteristics include the fact that platforms are, by definition, ubiquitous throughout the enterprise. Since everyone operates within the platform, implementing planned enhancements with components from the manufacturer of the platform will be significantly less expensive than bringing in an alternative from another vendor that may be incompatible with the platform itself. Consider the following features:

  • Support for the planned enhancements can be obtained from the support structure that is already in place within the enterprise. Any additional required skills may be obtained from existing staff who simply master a new feature, rather than bringing in new personnel who may be in short supply and less likely to take a job with the business.
  • Re-engineering Business Processes will attract quicker user acceptance where the new processes are built in the form of modifications or enhancements to existing processes and procedures.
  • Finally, related programs that are already in place can be used with the new software, as required; for example, databases, communications programs, etc.

The combination of these features, together with the achievement of the required changes in business processes will result in clear cost savings for the customer and substantial enhancements to productivity–just the type of tangible evidence required by the customer to determine value. Once the value is apparent the position of the sales person within the enterprise will be established in a useful capacity as a collaborator who will likely add increased value in the future.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved

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