Working through an M2M Field trial

Through this blog, and my day to day work, I do get a lot of calls and emails from people at various organizations who have been tasked to sell different M2M solutions.  This ranges from Cellular network salespeople, to salespeople from dealers of cell carriers to hardware manufacturers and to software/integration companies.  While many people understand the basics components of a solution, there is a lot of worry about how to put it all together, how to position it to a customer and how to know about a customer's business enough to even know if they are a good candidate for it.

This is the first portion of a tutorial series on how to sell M2M solutions....

Phase 1 - "I don't even know where to look for a good candidate"

Phase 2 - "Ok, they seem interested...how do I position this solution to them?  What should I know about their business to properly position the solution?"

Phase 3 - "Ok, they are interested and agree that it will help their business.  How do I go about selecting the perfect hardware/software/solution management package?"

Phase 4 - "They agree with the solution and want to do a field trial to prove that it works"

Phase 5 - "The trial went well, and we received a purchase order.....how do we deploy this effectively and quickly?"

Phase 6 - "The deployment went well....how do I manage this customer, post-deployment?"

One of the biggest misconceptions is exactly what a Field trial is.  For many people, their idea of offering a customer a "demo" is to just give them the device, with no strings attached.  I often hear "let them play with it, and they will buy".  For some customers, this may be true, but in my experience, this is usually a way to avoid getting a sale.  If customers have no invested any time/effort into planning the trial, you are likely to get customers who are not serious about using the device.  Your "demo" will often end up as either a paperweight on their desk, will be abused / mis-handled or the customer will not be using the device in a manner that allows them to properly test the device.

In the proper way:

- A Field trial is meant to prove a business case / ROI that you have already spoken about and agreed to.  You need to know what the customer expects from the trial, and the trial should be there to provide feedback on your assumptions.

- There should be proper goals (i.e. "this is the time savings that we expect"...."this is the reduction in travel time that we expect you to see"..."this is the amount of gas / driving savings you will see")

- There should be a start and a stop date, along with regular progress reports/meetings to see how things are progressing

- Finally, there should be a proper feedback system (email box, web spot for comments, dedicated support, etc) to get proper feedback as to the usability

- Once completed, a proper assessment needs to be done to see if the goals were met.

Running a proper trial is essential in the sale of any successful solution.  A professional salesperson can use this step as a qualification to the seriousness of the customer's intentions.  While some customers can "play with a device" and move right to purchase, most customers who are serious about their business will expect a properly run field trial to ensure that solutions work as promised.