Compatibility - Part 3
By Victor Antonio, BSEE, MBA
In the last two articles I discussed sales strategies for positioning reliability and upgradeability. In this third in a four part series, I want to turn my attention now to selling compatibility. Whether you’re selling software or hardware, one of the biggest obstacles you will face in the sales process is convincing the buyer that your product will not negatively affect their existing system.
Let's begin by first defining the term itself, compatibility. A product is considered compatible when first, it can be added or integrated into a system without negatively affecting performance, and second that it has the capability of enhancing the system itself. The latter is obviously why companies buy compatible products; to enhance its performance.
So how do you sell compatibility to a customer? What approaches are necessary to overcome some of the obvious objections regarding quality, interference or integration?
So how do you sell compatibility? Lets begin by understanding what the customer will think when they hear the term compatibility. The first reaction from the customer might be to immediately call into question whether it is compatible and will undoubtedly ask for proof? Even if it is compatible, the customer will think, “Why should I potential disrupt my system?” There are two ways to overcome these mental objections and sell compatibility:
Strategy 1: To say a product is compatible is the equivalent of saying, “It’ll work with your system, no problem.” The customer’s immediate reaction will be for you to provide convincing real world evidence that it won’t cause glitches or intermittent problems. Customers fear one thing more than anything else when it comes to maintaining systems, intermittent problems. These problems are the worse because they have no specific mode of behavior. They appear and then disappear for no apparent reason. Selling compatible equipment will mainly be about convincing a customer that your product will not cause intermittent problems. The only way to guarantee this is to: 1) trial the product on various systems before proposing it to a customer; by doing this you will be able to somewhat assure the customer that your company has pre-tested the product on a similar system, and 2) Begin testing the compatible product on isolated or departmental systems; this allows controlled on-site testing.
Strategy 2: Once you’ve overcome the fear factor of possible intermittent problems, the next step is to demonstrate the ease of adding this product to the system. Compatibility is synonymous with ‘easily integrate-able’. If your selling software, make sure you have an easy to navigate GUI (pronounced Goo-ee, Graphical User Interface) with simple setup Wizards. If the product is hardware, make sure your connection ports are labeled using the same iconic representations that are considered standard for the industry (e.g., USB port graphic on your computer should match the one on your product). Although this is more of a product management design issue, it is the salesperson’s job to highlight these similarities and ease of setting up the equipment. The more the customer perceives that the product is somewhat ‘standard’, the more like they are to want to go ahead with the purchase.
Selling compatibility comes down to selling the products ease of integration and that it will not compromise the integrity of the system when introduce. All of us as consumers are reluctant to buy add-ons for two specific reasons:
1) the perceived difficulty of setting it up, and
2) the fear of possible problems that may occur.
We only overcome those fears when the need to upgrade moves from being perceived as a luxury (i.e., nice to have), to that of a necessity (i.e., must have). The task of a salesperson is to diminish the fear of implementation and augment the need by showing the customer the long-term benefits.
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