Marketing is accumulation.
Prospecting is filtering.
So what’s sales?
“Sales is closing,” Gunner Technology CEO, Cody Swann, said with a laugh. “Sorry. I couldn’t resist.”
While sales, does, in fact, include closing, there’s a lot more to it than that.
“Imagine you run a night club,” Swann said. “You want as many people as possible to show up. That’s marketing.
“But once they’re there, you have a bouncer to screen people after learning more about them. That’s prospecting.
“Once they’re inside, you want them buying drinks. That’s sales.”
The analogy works to highlight the differences, but most companies won’t find usually come across such motivated purchasers.
“Sure, ” Swann said. “Most everyone going to the club is going to have a drink. And alcohol isn’t the best analogy to begin with because you don’t want to over serve anyone. But, if marketing and prospecting are doing their jobs well, by the time the sales team gets a hold of the contact, they should be talking to a motivated purchaser.”
For example, a boat sales company may run a marketing campaign targeted at people who like to boat and fish.
But if prospecting needs to screen these people before sales takes over.
“Sales can be a very long, intensive process, so the last thing we need is to waste their time with someone who was never going to convert in the first place,” Swann said.
In the boating analogy, maybe someone in that campaign just purchased a boat.
The chances of them purchasing another boat are virtually non existent.
It’s the job of the prospector to weed that person out.
At the same time, the prospector needs to add information, such as why a prospect might be interested in a boat – midlife crisis? kids just went off to school? new job?
This will arm the sales team with information to allow them to connect with the prospect better.
“If I’m talking to someone, I want to know about him or her,” Swann said. “Where did they go to college? How many kids do they have? Are they married? Were they in a fraternity?
The point isn’t to scare the prospect away by revealing everything you know about them, which would probably just creep them out anyway, but instead, it’s to eliminate any surprises and help steer the conversation.”
That’s because selling is more about selling the company or the individual rather than any single product or service.
“Bottomline is they have to like you – the sales person,” Swann said. “So you’re selling yourself and the company. You have to earn trust.”
Hard sells are zero sum transactions and while they may work in the short term, they’re not sustainable in the long term.
“Yeah, those days have come and gone,” Swann said. “There are just too many options out there for someone to be beaten into submission. Plus, good luck getting a repeat sale or contract from them.”
And while selling a product and service share a lot of commonalities, they differ in a lot of respects, especially for companies like Gunner Technology.
“We’re not a Software as a Service company,” Swann said. “We’re not an anything as a service company. We help people figure out innovative ideas to specific problems, help them raise money to fund those ideas and build the solution.”
But that’s a tough sell.
“The straight forward sell is basically: ‘Look. You may not realize it, but you could be making a lot of money or saving a lot of money with software. Sitting here right now, I’m not sure what exactly that means, but hire us and we’ll figure it out,'” Swann said. “No one in their right mind is going to go for that. Hell, I’m not even going for that.”
Instead, the sales team needs to be proactive and expound upon the research the prospectors do.
“Instead of going to, say, an independent financial advisor and saying ‘How can we make you more money?’ I expect our sales team to have ideas already in place that will make that FA more money,” Swann said. “‘Hey, I had this idea that would send you pre-screened prospects based off of property records automatically. Is that something you could use?'”
The latter methodology has a much higher rate of success, especially when the prospects may not even know what is and isn’t possible with software.
“Sometimes, the prospect jumps at the first idea,” Swann said. “And that’s great, but the real point of this exercise is to get them thinking. ‘You could do that? What about x, y and z? Can you guys do that?'”
But immediately after comes the $60,000 question.
“How much is that going to cost?” Swann said. “Inevitably, that’s the question and it’s understandable. And the honest answer is, at that point, we have no clue. Somewhere between $2 and $2 million is about where I come down.”
Simply put, Gunner is in the business of building new ideas.
How do you put a price tag on building something that’s never been built before?
“You can’t sell anything on a price variance like that,” Swann said. “Which is why we offer a 30-day free trial.”
Basically, Gunner loans the prospect a business analyst and two developer who will work with the prospect for 30 days.
“It gives us a chance to flesh out the idea and get to work on it,” Swann said. “Most of the time, 30 days is enough time to build a rough prototype – sometimes way more. Heck we even completely finished a project within the trial period one time.. The goal, though, is to be able to say, at the end of 30 days ‘OK. Instead of $2 to $2 million, it’s going to cost between $36,000 and $43,000.'”
At the end of the 30 days, the prospect owes Gunner nothing, regardless of if they choose to move forward.
“Totally risk free,” Swann said. “Even if they decide to go with someone else, we’ll let them use the code we wrote in that 30 day trial. The only thing we ask is that, if they’re happy with the work we did, they write us a testimonial and send us any referrals in the future.”
Gunner also goes out of its way to work with the prospect to get that initial cost down.
“We get that, when you’re starting out on a new idea, money is tight,” Swann said. “Whether your a company taking a flier on some R&D or an entrepreneur trying to change the world or make $4 billion. The money is always tight in the beginning.”
To address that, Gunner will help by introducing the prospect to potential investors, applying for funding from companies like Amazon and offering discounts for loyalty, referrals and payment structure.
“We make almost nothing on the front end, ” Swann said. “As I tell our clients: Our success is from your success, meaning, we only make money if you’re successful.”
Gunner’s front end (or initial contract) margins are slim mainly because Gunner doesn’t want to do anything to hinder the project getting off the ground because if it does, the back end (or recurring contracts) margins prove to be much more lucrative.
“When the money is rolling in, everyone is happy and makes out,” Swann said. “And we know how to make that happen.”