iStart – Productivity bites tech sector

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The following article was originally published on iStart on 23 November 2017.

Tech companies urged to ‘eat more of their own dog food’ when it comes to selling…

Kiwi technology companies need to sell themselves smarter if the industry as a whole is to realise its full potential of becoming the country’s largest export industry.

That’s a bold claim being made in the latest Market Measures report.

“We don’t face the same environmental constraints of the other two major export sectors –agriculture and tourism – so the potential for tech is virtually limitless,” said Owen Scott, Concentrate Limited MD. Along with another marketing company, Swaytech, Concentrate organises the report.

“Improving our ability to sell efficiently is one way of unlocking this potential, and ultimately becoming New Zealand’s primary export industry,” added Scott in a statement.

Now in its ninth year, Market Measures gathers information about sales and marketing from over 300 New Zealand technology companies, and compares the results to similar data from the USA. “In the 2017 study we have found that Kiwi companies are over-reliant on company founders and high-value sales people to sell their products and services. More than 46 percent of companies said a founder was still closely involved in sales, and the average sales person in an export market was paid a base salary almost 50 percent higher than the typical equivalent US salesperson.”

Here’s the problem: key man dependency limits growth. “It’s not a scalable approach to generating export sales – 40 percent of the surveyed companies reported that productivity was their main problem when it came to managing their sales teams,” Scott said.

Swaytech MD Bob Pinchin said US companies use on average three times the number of digital sales tools (e.g. email automation, contact intelligence and similar) than their New Zealand counterparts. This, he said, is evidence of a sharp focus on efficiency. “In the tech industry we call this ‘eating your own dog food’, but our firms are turning their nose up at these tools at the moment.”

One potential reason, no doubt, is the nature of the New Zealand market. Relationships are key to doing business. Buying and selling doesn’t happen through automatons, it generally takes place between trusted parties.

Which is well and good when you’re trading locally. Taking on the big, wide world requires an ability to reach more prospects. It depends on the very tools of efficiency and enablement that the tech industry itself peddles.

“We have talented tech sales people who convert leads at an incredibly high rate, but it’s the volume of sales that is the issue – this productivity challenge is one we have to solve to overtake the other two big export industries,” said Pinchin.

“Our tech sales people are really ‘artists’, talented and creative and able to craft sales, but what we need more of is scientists – people operating within a rigorous system able to produce repeatable, predictable sales results at a lower cost,” added Scott.

He said more than ever, local companies must invest in sales and marketing. Unsurprisingly, that’s what Concentrate and Swaytech do, and this is therefore an enduring theme in the companies’ Market Measures report.

“NZTE works with an increasing number of internationally successful tech companies but as the Market Measures study suggests, some of them – big and small – are forgetting to cover some of the basics that lead to export growth,” said Charles Haddrell, Customer Director at  NZTE, principal sponsor of Market Measures.

“Getting your sales and marketing strategies right isn’t just a nice to have – it’s a must have. We’ve worked with hundreds of companies and know from experience that implementing robust sales processes, developing sales and execution skills, hiring well, and being aware of the technologies to support the sales and marketing functions are vital to being successful overseas,” Haddrell added.

The Market Measures report is available free for people who completed the survey. For other people it can be purchased for $375 (including GST). Access your copy of the report here.

2017 Market Measures report

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