If you’re in sales, you’re probably getting sick of every pundit on the planet telling you that you need to become a “subject matter expert.” Isn’t that what product marketing’s for, or your sales engineer – to go with you on meetings near the end of a deal and field the questions that you, the salesperson, don’t know how to respond to because they’re over your head?customer value of the internet of things

In a lot of cases, that’s actually OK – it’s a lot like the idea that you don’t have to know everything, but you do need to know where to look everything up. That kind of knowledge does help elevate your expertise, and having those hardcore product and technology guys at the ready helps, too.

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say you have to become a subject matter expert about your products and services – to a point. But there’s one thing that you will need to know inside and out in the coming months and year: how to explain the customer value of the Internet of Things (IoT).

To jog your memory, the IoT is the emerging environment of connected and enabled devices that generate data about their usage and transmit it using the Internet. The IoT is inextricably linked to something we like to call the Internet of Sales – that is, the similarly vast amount of data generated by sales and marketing activities that can be similarly analyzed to discover insights and improve business performance.

The value of the IoT is obvious to business – it can arm them with new information about customers, automate certain transactions, and provide data on customer behavior that can help with future sales. But this isn’t what you need to articulate to customers.

We live in a “what’s-in-it-for-me” world, and that will be fully on display as your product offerings start to include IoT-enabled features. Customers know how the IoT can help you sell more things to them; your job will include explaining to them why they should want the IoT to play a major role in your relationship.

First off, you’re going to have to explain the IoT. There are lots of good sources to help you understand it – Computerworld offered a good one last year.

Next, you’ll need to explain how your company plans on using the data the IoT generates. To the customer, this process is opaque – his or her job is to do his or her job, not to track the data being generated by devices within the office, so your customer has not put a lot of thought into it. However, we all can sense how a seller could take advantage of a buyer by not being a fair dealer in using this information. Refills could be sent before they’re needed; service appointments could be scheduled when they’re not necessary; other automated sales could happen at times when the buyer doesn’t really need them. How will your company handle the data the IoT provides, and how does the buyer gain some visibility into what’s being generated and which selling activities it results in?

Third, you’ll need to explain how the IoT makes your products and your customers’ experiences with you better. This is something that will be unique to your offering, but it needs to be phrased in the context of the customer: it will result in higher uptime, it will eliminate calls for re-orders, it will help the customer scale operations in response to data, or whatever it happens to be in your company’s case. Customers need to want the IoT to change the way they work with you as much or more as you want the IoT to help increase sales and boost customer loyalty.

I can hear you now: Isn’t this the kind of stuff product marketing or the sales engineers or someone else should handle? No. It’s critical to the relationships you’re going to be building with customers in the future. And, at the leading edge of the IoT revolution, the winners in sales will be the people who can articulate this vision in ways that customers can understand best and first.

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