I’m new to the world of sales, besides upselling muffins on McDonald's drive through windows 1 at 16 years old, I’ve very little personal engagement with sales as a seller.
Quite understandably this lack of sales knowledge concerned me when embarking on a new business venture with my business partner. Yes I have worked for retail in an engineering capacity and I have worked for MSSPs, also in an engineering capacity, but not in a sales-driven role or customer facing presales role during my time in cyber security. My experience with cyber security sales has come entirely from a consumer perspective, being on the receiving end of a purchased product, often frustrated by terrible service, having to cope with something that was mis-sold that does not do the job it was promised to do . . . .
Starting a business that needs to sell services, with personally only a consumer hat on, gives me quite an interesting perspective and actually makes me incredibly customer focused. I have come to recognise this as a huge benefit. I don’t have preconceived ideas about how things ‘should’ be done and there’s no ‘we’ve always done it that way’ to be complacent about. This has sometimes resulted in some interesting discussions.
The comment below was interpreted (but not intended) as quite a controversial statement, triggering a number of interesting and valid discussions around the area of 3rd party security practices. The responses were intriguing to me and although I only received a small handful of inmails regarding this post, they mostly had the same tone.
“We’ll never brag about how we’ve helped you become more secure.
You will never find your logo on our site, or your name dropped at a party. We gain interest from the quality of our work, not the quality of your reputation.” — [th4ts3cur1ty.company 2019]
Here are a consolidation of the rebuttal discussion points raised:
- We get more business leads [by naming clients].
- [Naming clients] adds a level of trust which drives more business towards us.
- [Naming clients] in a sense verifies us. Gives us a stamp of approval.
- It adds to a sense of legitimacy, which is needed when small business like ours are trying to get new leads.
Notice the common denominator here, it is all structured around what the customer can do for the vendor, not what the vendor’s service can do for the customer.
Success in sales is arguably about getting other people to buy your stuff, however for me it’s about finding the right fit for my stuff in an organisation that needs it, and successfully articulating how that fit can be achieved. If I can’t sell purple teaming, a SOC build or Pocket Siem, at least I can come away with an open door for the future … hopefully.
Understanding success is a lot more nuanced than making a sale. If I can understand the customer’s definition of success first, I can better understand my own definition of success as it applies to them.
‘What are the key metrics for this project to be considered a success for you guys?’ ‘Where are those metrics now and where would you like them to be at the end of our engagement?’
‘What will success look like for you?’ are some of the questions I’m often told other people trying to sell their stuff simply don’t ask.
It’s then up to us, myself and the potential client to understand what problems I need to solve and intricacies I need to understand in order to help this POTENTIAL client achieve success in their cyber defence. It may be that we’re not right for you, but I might know someone who is, or maybe I’ll make a recommendation on how you can go about this without us and avoid the pitfalls.
I am naturally inquisitive and want to know what my clients intentions are with cyber security, but wider than that what their business goals are. I want to know where they are at in terms of growth and where they want to be, why they do what they do and how well positioned they are in their prospective market. Without this knowledge I’m left concentrating on where they will fit in to my plans, not how my services fit into their business ecosystem.
I found that where sales people fell down trying to sell to me was focusing solely on their numbers, not my needs, starting a conversation telling me what they can do for me without knowing if those things match my needs; talking at me about the size of their brand and organisation; name dropping current clients; not considering my/our corporate frustrations. It may sound a little pedantic but trust me it’s a huge shift in attitude to leave your own targets at the door to better understand someone else’s.
Concentrate on your customer’s success. Your own will follow. . . . or at least I really fucking hope so. [Eliza May Austin 2019]