14 Business-Killing Things I Learned About Selling to Tech Buyers


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All because of someone I met on LinkedIn

I was recently engaged in a passionate discussion with a new friend of mine, Kenny Madden, about the importance of understanding sales from the buyer’s perspective. He said something like “Who cares how a bunch of salespeople are defining Sales 2.0; the buyer has no clue what that is and doesn’t care. They just want us to do a better job selling.”

You might think I would be offended, as co-author of the book, Sales 2.0. On the contrary, I couldn’t have agreed more, because his in-your-face statement reinforced a basic premise of Sales 2.0 – it’s about a better way of selling to meet the expectations of today’s buyers. Reinforcing my beliefs further, this discussion would never have happened were it not for social networking (an important tool in Sales 2.0). Kenny and I have never met face-to-face or even talked on the phone. We met on LinkedIn, have had several “conversations” on Facebook, and have exchanged e-mail. Our entire relationship has been carried out online. How cool is that?

So what does all of that have to do with selling to tech buyers? Kenny, true to his word, decided to listen to a bunch of tech buyers – 1.6 million to be exact – to get their perspective and learn what they want from those of us who sell to them. From his online survey, here are the 14 business-killing things he shared in a recent blog. And – using another Sales 2.0 technique – I’m passing it on to our friends and colleagues.

The 14 worst things an IT vendor can do (in no particular order)

  1. Cold call – don’t do any research about my company or business
  2. Lie about your products
  3. Don’t listen
  4. Slam the competition
  5. Assume IT decision makers have linear buying stages – you have to be on, “always on,” regardless of where I am
  6. Poor, generic advertising and marketing that provides no useful information about you or your company
  7. Not responding
  8. Not being open about pricing
  9. Pretending you have a relationship with my company when you don’t
  10. Refuse to leave a voicemail with the receptionist
  11. Argue
  12. Thinking that I’m ready to buy simply because I downloaded a whitepaper
  13. Making your technical information hard to find on your website
  14. And my personal favorite…Thinking that the IT department has no juice; only selling to the C level (All they do is pass it to IT to vet)

Kenny, who works in market development at Spiceworks, the fastest growing IT social business network, went on to share the 13 best things an IT vendor can do, along with summary recommendations. You can read his entire blog here.

Another cool thing about Kenny…he expresses his passion for sales and marketing in art. Here’s one of my favorite pieces from his collection, titled “I am not a Lead.”

That’s the story of my latest great find on social media. I found a new friend and like-minded colleague. I gained some new insights into selling to tech buyers that I can pass on to my team and all of you. What’s your best social networking story?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Anneke Seley
Anneke Seley was the twelfth employee at Oracle and the designer of OracleDirect, the company's revolutionary inside sales operation. She is currently the CEO and founder of Phone Works, a sales strategy and implementation consultancy that helps large and small businesses build and restructure sales teams to achieve predictable, measurable, and sustainable sales growth, using Sales 2. principles.


  1. I think the The 14 worst things an IT vendor can do can also be applied to any sales pitch.. If you want to stay in business over a long run it is all about building customer relations. I know it sounds simple but it is not.. that is what separates the good from the great!

  2. Anneke: Nothing here I disagree with. Opacity and bad assumptions don’t make any buyer feel warm and fuzzy. Yet, for all the blogs and articles telling salespeople how to behave–or humiliating them about how they do behave (should you be ashamed about ‘cold calling’ if that’s what you have to do to keep your job?)–it’s a wonder we all don’t walk into the CIO’s office trembling while holding our tails tucked between our legs.

    I don’t question the fact that some salespeople lack interpersonal skills. But it does seem odd to me that salespeople can be chronically stupid for so long that the blogs I read in 2011 about their rapport-breaking behaviors look like they’re warmed over from ones I read in ’03, ’04, ’05 . . . seems people would catch on! So . . .

    I have two questions:

    1. Who puts salespeople up to this? Are we stuck with jerky salespeople? or . . . does the system (read: managers) under which they work drive bad practices?

    2. What role does positive, ethical buyer behavior have in the purchasing outcomes?

    It’s easy to slam bad sales behavior–there’s plenty of it. But it’s important to consider the complete picture. For many poor sales tactics I see, I can point to an ‘inspirational’ poster at the home office, a “no fail” tip learned in sales training, or a commission plan that reinforces it. Is that the salesperson’s fault? I don’t think so.

    Salespeople perform within a system that often works at cross purposes to outcomes customers want. Buyers have their own set of ethical issues. B2B buying is a collaborative process, and good behavior is reciprocal. When salespeople are honest and respectful of their clients, they have every right to expect the same in return. Sometimes they get it, but sometimes they don’t.

  3. Great post! Another consideration is to send communications via a channel that tech buyers are actually using. Recently I ran across a study by Softchoice that finds almost 50% of B2B IT buyers specify online forums, communities and blogs as "the most useful” sources of information. That said, sales reps shouldn't assume that they can immediately drop a sales pitch into the conversation without first establishing credibility within each specific social forum.

    Note: The views expressed in this posting are my own; they do not necessarily represent the positions, strategies, or opinions of Hoover's.

  4. Andy:

    This post was in no way meant to be disrespectful of sales people. Kenny is a sales guy himself and I am a sales manager and champion of sales people – especially those on the phones and online. This post was meant to share valuable information about the buyer’s perspective to help reps be more successful – not to tear them down.
    You are right: buying and selling is a collaboration and both sides have responsibilities to listen, do our homework, be reasonable and respectful. And yes, some managers and some corporate cultures (and comp plans) drive sales people to behaviors and activities that are not appreciated by buyers…..in years past and today. So this “warmed over” message is still relevant and bears repeating – and can potentially be used by sales reps to help educate their management. I would even contend that today, the message is more important than ever for sales leaders as well as reps, given the shift in power from sales rep to buyer due to various factors such as the availability of online information, increase in competitive offerings, etc.
    Thanks for sharing your perspective!


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