Selling Technology vs. Selling Value: A Landscaping Metaphor

Devon-McDonald by

Last week I had a conversation with a VP of Sales in OpenView’s portfolio — Ron Clevenger of Balihoo. Ron came into his role with Balihoo last quarter, and since his start date he has been dissecting his new team’s sales process/approach to determine what’s working, what’s not working, and what adjustments need to be made to what’s not working in order to fill the pipeline with an abundance of hot, qualified opportunities. Ron’s fresh set of eyes and years of experience have helped him quickly identify a selling impediment: some members of the team have been more focused on selling the features of the technology in opening conversations and demos, rather than the value.

He used a metaphor to explain the selling situation:

Imagine a landscaping service that is trying to build their clientele base. This company approaches prospective homeowners and pitches to them… “You should definitely use our services… Why? Well, let me tell you: we’ve got Black and Decker 16″ Hedge Trimmers TR1600 — this tool is the best out there — it’s incredibly lightweight compared to gas models.”

Who cares? With a “pitch” like this it is very likely the prospect will say “Thanks, but no thanks.” The sleek TR1600 means nothing to that audience – what does the tool have to do with the prospect’s yard?

Now, what if this same landscaping company approached prospects with a different angle. The landscaper asks the homeowner what he or she likes about their yard and (more importantly) what they DON’T like about their yard — from there, the landscaper paints a picture of how wonderful their yard will work with a little bit of landscaping. “Ahh… your crabgrass. Yes, that has to be frustrating to see that growing in your yard — I can understand you saying it’s embarrassing when your neighbors have perfect lawns. Our services will make it so that you will never see that crabgrass there again… Not to mention, I see a tremendous opportunity to build out that garden and really open up your yard by (insert landscaping vision here – me? I cant even keep my desk plant alive, so I’ll stop there). You’ll have the best yard on the block, hands down.”

See where this is going?

Take a step back… listen to your reps on the phones. Are they talking too much about the technology, and not enough about the VALUE and how much better off the prospect will be once they are a customer? If so, it’s time to make some adjustments. This goes back to the concept of knowing your audience… if you are targeting a prospect that isn’t tech savvy — what will they care? They want to know how your product/services will make THEIR situation better.

A good lesson from Ron for any expansion stage company – don’t clutter your sales dialogues with technology mumbo-jumbo. Get to the value and the vision.