When Technology Is Good, it Sells Itself

The technology industry is, thankfully, free from the hard sales tactics used by some sectors.

by / August 19, 2014

I got suckered into attending a time-share-like presentation for a discount wholesale travel club. It took about an hour and a half, but it felt so scammy that when we left, I just wanted to wash myself clean of the hard sales tactics.

During the presentation, we watched every marketing and sales technique being thrown at us. I suppose they thought they really had to try all this to get anyone to come up with the almost $10,000 they were asking for a lifetime membership.

The tactics spanned what I call the seven S’s of salesmanship:

  • Service: The first representative tried to convince us how good and honest he was and told us he had just spent five years on a humanitarian mission to Africa. And the main presenter literally pulled out his veteran’s card, although it was partially covered, and told us how he had served in two dangerous combat zones.
  • Sympathy: Then came the story about his Hodgkin lymphoma, his son with autism and so on.
  • Survivor: The main salesman said, “We are all dying,” so we need to travel to live life to its fullest. He went on to talk about how we could survive and thrive with the time we have left in this world.
  • Satisfaction: He also waved a copy over his head of what he claimed was an A-plus rating by the Better Business Bureau, again, which no one could really see. He showed slide after slide about the differences between vacation retail prices and those of his wholesale travel club. Who wouldn’t be satisfied with paying less?
  • Safety: Of course, there was a money-back guarantee if you didn’t make all the money you invested back within five years. The company will audit it.
  • Successorship: The company said you could take your family on all these great trips for cheap, and even when you die, your heirs would take over the membership, so you would be benefiting your successors. In other words, if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your family.
  • Sensitivity of Time: They offered a $2,000 voucher to the first couple that would express interest in signing up. Then warned that if you didn’t sign up immediately, the offer would be greatly reduced in time and benefit.

There were more high-pressure tactics, but I said simply, “If you are so confident in your product, why not give us a free trial to see for ourselves?” That wasn’t what they wanted to hear — how about a “trial” membership for three years for just under $3,000. Uh, no!

I reflected on how I didn’t like wasting my time there, but realized that this had been a great lesson for my youngest daughter, who got to see the extent of what other people will do to try to get you to hand over your hard-earned money.

In contrast, this is something I really like about technology — you don’t really have to convince people to buy it. If it’s good, it sells itself.  

Of course, there’s competition — sometimes cutthroat — between vendors with similar products, but the hardware, software, databases and connectivity has demonstrative intrinsic value that you want to buy, because it makes whatever you do better.

A colleague recently pointed this out, saying that you can’t be competitive without modern technology, you’ll simply be out of business. So whether it’s a business trying to do more with less or people wanting to have more functionality and day-to-day convenience, you get the technology and don’t have to be coerced into a 60-minute sales talk.

Perhaps this is why with technology, it’s common to do proofs of concept, pilots, beta tests and software trials, because we tend to like to prove out the value and not just push out a slide presentation.

Are there IT salespeople who will impose death by PowerPoint and other hard sales tactics? Of course, but that’s why we can always ask to take it for a test drive first and make sure the value proposition is there. Smoke and mirrors are for time shares and discount travel clubs; I’m glad I work with technology.

Andy Blumenthal Contributing Writer

Andy Blumenthal is a division chief at the U.S. State Department. He was previously chief technology officer at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A regular speaker and published author, Blumenthal blogs at User-Centric Enterprise Architecture and The Total CIO. These are his personal views and do not represent those of his agency.