#Business

Wednesday’s Sales Strategy

Ali Hafizji
September 9, 2020

Sales? Blehh! Often people think of sales as a job that doesn’t require any intellect — a task for the ones good with slick handedness. To others, it’s the province of characters in the realm of trickery and deceit.

In today’s day, everyone is a salesman. Whether you’re convincing your team to work on a side project or selling your company to a new recruit. Like it or not you are selling without the salesman label on you.

In an effort to understand how my own team thought about Sales I posed a question What are the first three words that come to mind when you think of sales? The top answers include money, sweet talker, and closer.

I’m convinced that in today's day and age a person with these traits cannot sell anything. In this article, I’m going to write about how sales strategies have changed over the years and how it can be done today. I’ll also write about how Wednesday sells software services to its customers.

Sales strategies in the good old days

What comes to mind when I think of a sales is a door to door salesperson selling an encyclopedia (I had a bunch of them visit me). Back in the day, these jobs were quite lucrative and people could make a decent wage going door to door.

Door to door sales in today’s day will probably not work. If you’ve ever opened your door to a salesperson you’ll notice they use tricks like “If you buy now I’ll give you a 10% discount” or “Buy three for the price of two”. In a time of information asymmetry, these tricks work. You do not know what else is available in a similar category and at what price. A bargain in front of you is tempting.

In fact, until very recently this is how second-hand cars were sold in India. The idea of buying a second-hand car with a verified sticker on it without knowing what was verified or who the owners were doesn’t mean you’re buying a good product. If you’ve ever visited a car lot you’ll notice how the prices start falling the minute you show some seriousness.

Information asymmetry brings in all sorts of headaches. If the seller knows more about the product than the buyer, the buyer will be suspicious. In this scenario, the buyer will always look for a deal because he doesn’t know what he’s buying. For any business that wants to compete in today's age, this isn’t ideal. Even if the business has great products to sell with the best quality in an age of information asymmetry the price will always be bargained upon.

Sales in the internet age

Today a prospective buyer can learn about the product they want to buy well before even approaching a seller. They can read about the different alternatives, reviews, reviews of the seller, and much more. They have all the information they need at their fingertips.

Let’s take for example the second-hand car sales example. A buyer today can read about the different cars available in their price range, reviews about the car dealers on Facebook, get quotes online in just 15 minutes on any search engine. In fact, they now have the power to do more than that, if they’re unsatisfied with a product they can leave a negative review which can be detrimental for any business.

The era of information asymmetry is over. Buyers are no longer helpless victims of not knowing what else is available and who to buy from.

This change due to the ease of availability of information requires businesses to take a long term view and provide value to the customer by ensuring they know exactly what they are getting and at what price.

Wednesday’s Sales Strategy

Being in the consulting business we talk to companies of all sizes for contracts to build their digital products. A typical sale for Wednesday would involve talking to multiple people from the customer’s team to ensure we can provide what they are looking for. In our case, this would be in the form of technological expertise, the ability to create designs that meet their customer needs, automation, and being aware of what tools and frameworks they should invest in for their business.

Sales for these consulting services have changed over the past decade. From a time where what sold was cheaper prices to now being in an era where customers want to talk to the people they are going to work with and know what they’re buying has been a move from asymmetry to symmetry.

The sales process that Wednesday follows is one that is based on the following tenants:

  1. Billable hours don’t matter — always suggest the right approach: Let’s face it, the longer the project the better for a consulting business. However, we do not want to ever overbill the customer. If we know of a ready solution that they should use and fits their needs we always ensure they use it and not try to reinvent the wheel.
  2. We know our stack well and say no to the rest: At Wednesday, we have expertise in certain areas. We know how to build software using these frameworks well. We stick to our expertise. If a customer has already invested in another framework we will not tell them to rewrite their product in something we have expertise in. In fact, many times we help them find the right partner with expertise in that area.
  3. Transparent team formation and delivery process: A team at Wednesday would typically involve a few developers, a designer, and a project manager. We encourage customers to talk to each person on the team we create for them. They should know who will be responsible for building their product and in what capacity. It’s also important for a customer to know who they are working with, how easy is it for them to talk to the team and moreover it’s also important to know if the team understands what they want to build. In a growing business where product requirements change it pays to have a team where you can bounce ideas off one another and everyone understands what the user’s needs are and participates in the ideation process.

The Playbook

At Wednesday we want to make all our decisions and strategies public. We think this breaks the information asymmetry barrier that potential customers have. We want customers to know who they will work with and what processes our teams will follow.

The geeky bunch we are. We’ve taken this a step forward by even listing down the frameworks we have expertise in, with details about the libraries we use, testing practices all the way down to the naming conventions.

If you’re a company in the consulting space or even in the product space I highly encourage you to think about creating your company playbook. It is a document that will always change but it will help you stay on course and will over time allow you to attract the people you will enjoy working with.

Product Development as “Modules

Another interesting part of the Wednesday Sales process is to think about product development as building a set of modules. Having been in the Software Development space for a while we’ve seen the same things being repeated over a long period of time.

These can be simple things as a starter project that has all the libraries in place to build components with storybooks and tests or can be a networking library that can work with a GraphQL endpoint. We want to build things that are re-usable across use-cases.

Here are some examples of things we have built in the past:

  1. Template projects: We have built template projects for all the frameworks we have expertise in. This includes frameworks like React, React Native, and Nodejs. We’ve found that this approach gives customers a good idea of how we structure code, write tests, and the libraries we have expertise in.
  2. Wednesday’s Auth service: We have built an authentication service that can be plugged on top of any backed to log users in to access resources. It supports scope based access to resources and even allows login using google SSO. Authentication is an important module for all web applications, this saves a ton of time for customers as they can get a ready product up and running in no time. Since we can plug this on to an existing product it allows us to work with teams who may have even started product development and bring us on board to increase velocity.
  3. React CLI: Building a React application involves writing a ton of boilerplate. Connecting to a redux store, creating containers, components, creating sagas, and generating tests for each requires writing a lot of code. We built an internal tool that can generate a lot of this boilerplate which saves a ton of time.

Selling is human and I think the modern strategy to do sales has to revolve around the question “If the person agrees to buy will it make their life easy?”

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