This is the final part of a seven-part series about selling technology and software into the financial markets sector.
In this blog, Colin Slight of The Realization Group, Alastair Rutherford of Ascendant Strategy, James Hounslow of Harrington Starr and Carl Rogers of Finceler8 look at the importance of demonstrating value early and throughout the sales process.
Sales cycles for large, high-value financial technology solutions can extend into months, or even years in some cases. So what are some of the methodologies or strategies that firms can adopt to clearly demonstrate value during a long sales cycle, not just at the end of it?
Recognise Internal Politics
“First and foremost, you need patience, because for all the vigour that one part of the organisation has for bringing in something new, the checks and balances that exist for good reason across the rest of the organisation are going to make things take time,” says Alastair Rutherford, Managing Director of Ascendant Strategy, a consultancy firm specialising in post-trade infrastructure transformation. “Vendors have to understand the dynamic of the organisation. They have to understand the set of stakeholders that are going to need to be managed, engaged with, and provided with sufficient information to make them comfortable with supporting the decision.”
Each of these groups may or may not have differing agendas to the key sponsor, adds Rutherford. “Obvious examples of these are the procurement groups, which sit in the CFO world, and are predominantly there to ensure value for money. That’s their job, so they are going to pursue that with vendors. The CTO and architecture functions are there to ensure that people don’t do counter-strategic things, or at least, not without the proper due diligence.
“Then you’ve got straight politics, people who disagree with each other, for whatever reason, valid or otherwise. And that sort of thing needs to be recognised and navigated. There’s usually a very diverse group of stakeholders who may or may not have different agendas when they talk to you. Understanding that, playing along with it, recognising that it’s never easy to do these things, means you’re less likely to get frustrated. Have your eyes open before you go in, and decide that if you do go for it, you’ve got a reasonable, upfront understanding of what you’re dealing with,” advises Rutherford.
Make Your Solution Easy to Buy
Carl Rogers, Director at Finceler8, a London-based fintech accelerator, suggests that vendors need to make it as easy as possible for the customer to buy. “If people can see a trial system or PoC working, that’s very powerful. Vendors can’t expect to just go from a demonstration to a fully installed system. There must be some sort of building blocks along the way. Of course, that means there’s investment required on the part of the vendor, so you could be putting in a lot of effort, time and resources. Which, unless you’re able to demonstrate value, could all be for nothing. So you need to be clear on what a successful trial or POC would look like. It’s important to define those parameters upfront in terms of the success factors, so you can measure your progress against those items.”
In conclusion, James Hounslow, Managing Director at Harrington Starr, a global specialist in fintech recruitment, and Colin Slight, Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Realization Group, the specialist financial services and fintech marketing agency, both stress the human aspect. “It’s about the touch points that you have with the people within the business,” says Hounslow. “You need to involve everybody in the process, and to go out of your way to get to know everybody. And don’t always talk about business, just get to know people so that they want to take a call from you. Make sure that you’re being useful to everybody, and that you give them quality time. It’s not just about the value that your solution can provide, it’s about the value that you as an individual, and as a business, can provide throughout that process.”
“Think about how you can demonstrate your value by helping the firm as a trusted partner,” says Slight. “There are a number of different ways of building trust. It’s about looking at the world through the eyes of other people. Empathy. There will be certain champions or advocates within an organisation who have put their trust in you and brought you into their firm, and you have a duty of care for them, both morally and commercially, to do whatever you can to show them success early on. So even if it elongates your sales cycle, or makes your own financial performance suboptimal at an early stage, you will reap the benefits later on. When people put their trust and their own reputation in your hands, that is a massive responsibility and it has to be taken seriously. And the sooner in the process you can offer some form of success in their terms, the better.”
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