What are the common reasons why prospects move so slowly to purchase? As we know, the buying committee is getting larger and larger. According to Gartner, the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to ten decision-makers and the options are expanding. Also, it’s hard to get the attention of buyers! When you sell software, one way to move the customer forward and speed up the sales cycle is to run a technical workshop.
Your sales engineers can accelerate the technology sales process by educating potential customers, removing technical blockers, and clearly demonstrating business value. Let’s dive into this secret weapon in the sales engineer’s kit and understand how you leverage that in a smart way to sell more.
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What’s a technical workshop
A technical workshop is a hands-on session where prospects or customers learn how to use your product in a lab or training environment. Typical workshops may range from an hour-long lunch-and-learn session to a full day of virtual training with an instructor. In either case, the pre-sales goal is the same: to get new or existing users to understand the technical and business value of your product or service.
Don’t confuse the terms “Workshop” or “Technical Workshop” with architecture reviews, whiteboarding sessions, or hackathons. These are also useful tools but should not be conflated with a properly planned hands-on technical workshop.
The truth about technical workshops
Let’s get this out of the way first. If your sales rep asks: “Should we do a Technical Workshop?”, the default answer is always NO.
NO is a perfectly acceptable answer
Technical workshops are an easy way to waste everybody’s time while feeling productive because you organized an event with the prospect. If you don’t plan carefully, qualify your opportunities, and prepare your users, throwing a technical workshop at the prospect won’t help and can sometimes make things worse.
Let’s go over a few of the reasons not to do a technical workshop with your users:
A Bad Workshop is Worse than No Workshop
A poorly planned workshop that does not have clear learning objectives, goals, and outcomes can cause more harm than good.
The memory of a poorly designed workshop lingers on…
Make sure you actually have a legitimate opportunity before promising anyone a technical workshop. In my own career, I have taught dozens of these workshops, many of which ended up being a complete waste of time.
Don’t let your pre-sales engineers become a free professional services team! If the technical workshop is really a pretense for free training or consulting hours, you should encourage the user to engage with a services partner instead. These deeper engagements are often better suited to a dedicated education or professional services team.
The technical workshop should not serve as a crutch for poor documentation or gaps in functionality. It should also not be a replacement for a proper professional services engagement.
How to win with technical workshops
A properly planned, well-qualified workshop helps you speed up the sales cycle. So let’s see how you can leverage your technical workshops to get your customers onboard faster.
Differentiate from the Competition
If you’re competing against another vendor the technical workshop can be a great way to differentiate your company’s solutions. And if the competition also does a workshop you’ll want to keep the playing field level by doing your own workshop. In many opportunities, you’ll be able to secure the technical win early in the sales process because the prospect had such a great experience with the workshop.
Overcome FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt)
One of the questions I like to ask at the beginning of a workshop is “How many of you have ever used our technology before? How many have even heard of our solution?” Usually, almost none of the people in the room had used our kit. Perhaps a few had heard about us or read an article.
Some of these users may even have preconceived notions about what your solution is and what it does. Others may have formed opinions based on incorrect or old data. The technical workshop is your chance to win over even the most hardened skeptics by showing them that your solution is easy to use and will help them solve even the most complex technical challenges.
After one of the workshops I presented, an engineer told me, “Wow, if only we’d had this tool a year ago, we could have saved so much time and trouble…” Sometimes people need to sit down and try out the tools themselves for it to really sink in.
Buying is a team sport, you need more than one champion
The workshop offers a chance to identify the different personalities on the team(s) that you are selling to. This is your opportunity to look for some champions who like your product or service and have the technical savvy or influence to convince their managers to buy your solution. The technical workshop is a non-threatening way to build relationships directly with the engineers who will be using your technology. They will help sell your solution to their teammates and managers. Those of you who follow the MEDDIC or MEDDPIC sales methodology will recognize the importance of the last letter C, or champion.
The champions you build with technical workshops are valuable allies who have much more influence over purchasing decisions than an outsider. After all, these are the folks who will be using your product or service and you want them on your side.
Planting the Seeds for Future Growth
Even if your customer doesn’t purchase your solution right away, you are planting the seeds for future growth and expansion. Some of the people who attend your workshop may move on to other jobs or departments and try to bring your tools with them. There are few things worse for a technical sales cycle than losing the only champion who understood your product. Doing a workshop also increases the pool of resources who understand your platform.
“We lost our champion because he took another job,” is an all-too-common refrain among enterprise sales reps.
Prospects Experience Working with Your Company
Users like getting personal attention from their account team. If they have a great experience with the pre-sales team it will build confidence that they will get good support even after the sale.
Grab the Undivided Attention of Technical Users
Developers, engineers, and system administrators are all busy. Enterprise IT workers rarely get even 30 minutes to an hour of free time. They are attending meetings, writing code, fixing bugs, or dealing with outages. None of these people has the time to properly evaluate your solution, let alone even read a blog or watch a three-minute video.
Distracted engineers too busy to learn about your new product
The technical workshop provides some protected time for you to speak directly to your prospect and educate them without all the usual distractions that they face every day. “I’m in training today.” is a perfect excuse to not have to answer emails or attend more meetings.
Let’s make your technical workshop pays off
The Technical Workshop, when used effectively, removes technical blockers, builds goodwill, and accelerates the sales cycle. Here are some dos and don’ts to remember when building the technical workshop program in your own organization:
Do: Be judicious; don’t give free workshops to every prospect.
Do: Clearly define what the workshop is and what it will include.
Do: Allow users to provide feedback at the end of the workshop.
Do: Have the next steps planned for your workshop participants.
Don’t: Give away workshops to every lead and prospect.
Don’t: Have unstructured free-form workshops.
Don’t: Use your SEs to patch over poor documentation or process.
Give your sales team a scalable, repeatable workshop platform
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