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Sunday Soundbite

Best advice you’ll get for selling tech to retailers in 2018

Chris Field
Chris Field

I’m obsessed with helping tech companies sell to retailers but because I know how hard it is to do, I try to avoid the usual bullshit from the marketing industry that speaks in generalities and banalities. My advice is sales first, marketing second. Here are nine things you may already do, but in this tough market, you will need to do them all better.

Target

You can start with an addressable market definition called all retailers turning over £1bn, but you need to end up with a list of names, decision makers, influencers, profiles, buying priorities and current vendors and project schedule. You won’t get them all, but their process will help you qualify out early, saving a lot of time and grief.

Start broad to go narrow

This is a tricky one because often, marketing will want to focus on brand awareness and market education, while sales will want to narrow in with a product sell. Both parties are doing their business but they can easily work against each other, considering they are both after the same people. Sure, the buyer brain needs a brand, thought leading AND a product message but they need to hand together, which they so often don’t.

Persist

Not even a hardened salesperson like me can take too many NOs, but not persisting is a very good way to get more of them. I don’t really believe that old saw about having to make contact at least 7 times before you get a response, because you may have made contact twice as often as that but the target still hasn’t really noticed you. Don’t give up; if your targeting is right, you will get there, even if the answer is still No.

Repeat

Just because you are fed up with telling people that you are the only dedicated retail technology marketing company (that’s us by the way), doesn’t mean they got it the first time. Many companies think they have to constantly refresh and broaden their messages to get a reaction. No. Stick to your gun.

Focus on the value

Respect to Andy Bounds for the concept of the Afters, what value retailers get after you’ve left. This might sound easy, but you would not believe the pain involved in trying to work this out. It’s worth the battle because once you get there, you will start to get the attention of not just your prospects but of all of their influencers.

Use the right channels

Different personas rely on different channels, so if you are sending unsolicited emails to the CEO, then you deserve everything you get, which will almost certainly be nothing. You might hate LinkedIn, while for others, it is a rich source of intelligence about the vendors they are investigating. You may hate Twitter, but many buyers monitor it for sentiment about you and to detect whether your business has any personality.

Know your retail

Don’t take my word for it, just talk to retailers who say that tech vendors don’t really understand retail. It may be that you do know your retail, but many companies go wrong by talking about their solution before at least enquiring about the retailer’s particular challenges. Understanding retail is not that easy in fact. Going into a store, reading Retail Week and dredging the Internet all helps of course, but the sum total of that investigation will not give you anything but the most superficial insight. Which is how most vendors go to market. How did that work for you?

Take advice from people who know retail

Ha ha. See what I did there.

Check your stamina

I work for companies that sell into retail because that’s all I know. Did I choose it? No. Would I choose it again? Of course. Who wants to sell to financial services organisations? It may be easier than selling to retailers who can’t help relying on their market trader instincts to beat their supplier up on price, but what industry is there with more variety and dynamism?

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