Go-to-Market , Product Marketing — 10.20.2020

Why Software Sales is Different from Hardware Sales and Tips for Bridging the Gap

Sara Croft, Principal, Growth Marketing

While it’s true a good sales professional can sell anything, it’s also true that the way to sell is different depending on what is being sold. When it comes to software sales versus hardware sales, the differences in selling tactics are many. Sales professionals making the switch from a physical product to a digital one need to arm themselves with more information, and often more patience, to lead to prospects through an extended sales cycle.

Pivot with product marketing

A sales professional who is used to selling physical products will have a significant pivot to make when entering the software sales market. After all, some physical products seem to sell themselves. Without a tangible product to see and touch, customers will need a way to engage digitally. Product marketing is key here.

Product marketers will equip software sales teams with materials and messaging that allows prospects to quickly understand what the solution is, how it addresses common pain points and how it works. At Innovatemap, our product marketing enables sales teams to quickly and strategically share information and materials that provide high-level insights into how software works, granular details about specific product capabilities and everything in-between. This could result in a packaging framework, a messaging framework with key benefits and differentiators, and even sales playbook content.

Software changes fast

One of the biggest differences between physical products and digital products is the rate of change. While a new physical product – even a highly-technical one like a smartphone or speaker – is introduced every year or so, software solutions undergo updates and upgrades far more regularly. Because of this, software sales professionals are constantly learning the intricacies of a changing product. They need to be aware of and ready to talk about each of these changes in-depth, discussing not just the fact that the update was made, but why. To stay abreast of constant changes, software sales team leads should expect regular, timely updates from product marketing leaders and pass that information along to all sales professionals.

Sales cycle is longer

While physical products and hardware have a sales cycle that tends to coordinate with the price – less expensive products having short cycles and more expensive products having long cycles – the software sales pipeline is traditionally long whether the product cost is high or low. Because of this, software sales professionals need to have ample content at their fingertips to power a long-term nurturing engine. Even the most promising leads – those who find a company’s website through their own searches and inquire directly about a quote – may take many months before becoming a customer.

This is another reason product marketing is so important. Product marketers can produce different kinds of content, like white papers, case studies, customer testimonials or demo videos, to share with prospects over a period of time. The strategy behind which pieces of content are shared at what time is complex. But again, that’s why product marketing for software solutions is so vital.

Clearly, the differences between software sales and hardware sales are many. To help sales professionals making the switch from hardware to software, we have some quick tips:

  • Invest time in reading all the content you’ll be sharing with prospects.
  • Let your supervisor know if a prospect asks a question that is not answered in any existing content pieces (the product marketing team may develop new content to address the question).
  • Don’t get frustrated when someone doesn’t buy right away. Remember the software sales cycle may take months or even a year.
  • Get access to the software you’re selling and use it. This will help you explain how people can utilize the software more naturally.
  • Use lead-tracking software to keep detailed notes about feedback you’re getting from prospects so you ensure you’re providing the most relevant information to them at next touch.

Selling software is a challenge, but it’s met with great reward when you truly understand the benefits of the solution you’re selling. Remember, the best advocates for a software solution are the ones who can speak directly to its selling points.