Product Experts vs. Business Developers

Should your company be using one of your product experts (engineers, specialists etc.) to handle sales lead generation and lead qualification applications for your company? Or should you be using a Business Developer who might not be as informed on the specifications of the product (and its technical performance) but is schooled in peeling-the-onion probing. And eliciting the important information needed to close large and complex sales.

As a best practice our experience has been that the most effective conversation we can have with a prospect or customer is not about the technical details of our product or service. Instead we need to engage the prospect in a dialog that allows us to better understand …

  • the pain,
  • the application,
  • the environment,
  • the decision making process,
  • the prospect’s ability to purchase (budgets),
  • timing,
  • And more, as becomes apparent, when the conversation progresses.

It very rarely about bits and bytes, weight and size.  It’s ALWAYS about the customer and his problems. Too bad that engineers and product specialists rarely understand this.

I recall a situation recently where I called a leading computer manufacturer to purchase a database server.  The salesperson – instead of finding out what I needed – opted immediately to bring on a product specialist.  And so began a litany of how great their systems were … has big … how fast etc.  The problem was that no one asked me what I needed the server for … the applications … the environment … my budget etc.  I had to go elsewhere to find a company that wanted to know my problems and how to help me out of them.

In an age of commoditization it is increasingly more difficult to differentiate one product from another.  The only way to sell more effectively is to clearly demonstrate how your products and services can solve their issues. But understanding their needs comes first.

So technical expertise is not a hindrance provided the nature of the conversation is geared to moving a sale forward.  However, many technical engineers are not trained to achieve this objective and hence steer the conversation in the direction of their own knowledge and experiences.  For the most part therefore they will kill the opportunity because they do not focus on the customer and his needs.

Lane Farber

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