HomeMobile EuropeLearning to sell

    Learning to sell


    During an interview with a senior representative from one of the world’s largest mobile communications vendors recently, I had a tale recounted to me that so illustrated the predicament of the mobile communications industry that it bears repeating. Faced with questions about the future strategy of the company in a market that was facing its first crisis, our valiant executive suggested that the time had come to ‘start selling’. An obvious statement you might think but one which sums up completely the challenge that the entire industry faces.

    For 95% of the mobile industry’s history, business success has been about meeting an ever-increasing demand and being first to market with the next incarnation of technology which did the same thing better, faster or in a smaller form-factor than anyone else. The specialist and often under-valued task of selling was largely irrelevant; it was more often than not simply a case of taking orders. Selling, if it came into the equation at all was about scoring points over competitors. Suggestions that a technology was unnecessary, delivered at the wrong time, or too user-unfriendly to be the basis for a sound business case, were notable only by their absence.

    The operator community has been equally culpable. No only did it, as a group, largely fail to ask enough of the basic questions as to make vendors assess the business viability of their offerings, but it was also guilty of committing the same crime. Selling mobile telephony to consumers was equally devoid of real selling concepts.

    This, however, is not supposed to be a diatribe on the mobile industry fuelled by the 20:20 vision of hindsight. There were reasons for the positions taken, not least of which was that mobile telephony enjoyed a speed of growth that left everyone running to keep up. Furthermore, as I have said many times before, for voice, the network and the service are one and the same thing. But, as the song says, ‘these times they are a changing’ and that change means that all involved have to reference what they are doing against the bottom line.

    Products and services have to deliver benefits to their respective target markets. For equipment vendors of all sorts that means they have to deliver something which in very simple terms can increase revenue or decrease costs. The return on investment, a term incidently that was hardly mentioned until two years ago, has to be demonstrable.

    On the service delivery side, operators are faced with an even more demanding challenge as they must disseminate highly complex technology into easy to use and easy to understand service offerings. What is more, they must by and large do this to a market that is not aware that it has a demand for those services.

    The mobile industry is now faced with building a new market and to do that it must learn to sell. Ask any successful salesman the secret to achieving this and he will tell you it begins by understanding the customer and providing a product or service that meets a need, even if the customer is unaware that he has that need. Never again will the mobile industry be able to start with technology and assume there will be a market at the end of the development cycle. The time is now upon us when we must start to sell effectively.