Accelerate software revenue by training the person who wrote the manual
Continuing from our last post, solving the problem of having a truly great software product and no revenue acceleration is not an easy task. But the solution may be right under your nose...
Instead of spending enormous amounts of money and efforts trying to find "a great salesperson" whom you'll then spend three years teaching about your product and market, and often fail, you could go in the opposite direction. Recalling our requirements list:
- Domain expertise in the prospect’s business to formulate and relate the challenge.
- Financial insight to demonstrate ROI if the problem is solved.
- Technical insight to understand how the product category solves the challenge.
- Product knowledge of the specific product to apply the relevant features, those that benefit the prospect in question, and only those, to the discussion.
- The visionary or “evangelical” personality skills to install confidence in the prospect.
- The “normal” sales skills to close a deal.
Chances are that, somewhere in the organization, you already have several people who possess 3 out of the first 4 items. Your developers do if your product is truly great - although they may lack some of the ability to relate it in lay terms to the average businessperson. And if you have a user guide or manual, you also have someone who is able to communicate.
I will argue that it's a lot quicker, on average, to teach a technical person with communication skills to sell (i.e. items 5 and 6), than it is to teach a sales professional the product and the market (i.e. items 1 through 4).
History is filled with successful examples. Among those that I'm familiar with, ERP-developer Navision (acquired by Microsoft in 2002, now MS Dynamics NAV) had as their first salesperson exactly the one who wrote the manual. I know that this very successful former CEO will argue that he was selected as technical writer and salesman mainly because the other two founders were better programmers than he was :-) But that would obviously be selling himself short.
In a situation where time to market is of the essence, which is every situation, you could gain valuable time by pursuing this alternate path. I know that every venture capitalist and every headhunter will probably tell you otherwise. But it is truly sad to see promising software companies spend years and years, money and efforts, going through salesperson after salesperson, who "just wasn't good enough" to achieve significant software revenue acceleration.
This alternative path may not be doable or practical for every software company, but it would, at the very least, be worthy of serious consideration.