Everywhere I turn lately, it seems M2M (often under its codenames of "the Internet of Things" or "the Internet of Everything") is everywhere.  It is being mentioned in boardrooms all across the world, at the Economic Forum in Switzerland and undoubtedly, at every Cellular Carrier headquarters in the world. 

One thing I have noticed, however, is how apprehensive the average Carrier sales professional is to sell these solutions, let alone much of the sales staff at the average retail store.  To address this, Carriers have brought on more seasoned sales and technical staff (called everything from "Solutions Architects" to "Data Specialists" to "Application Consultants") to help complete the sales cycles.  However, for our industry to achieve the growth that we all know that it can, we need to improve the M2M sales skills of all wireless salespeople, including those in the mall.  One only has to look at the success that RIM had selling its Blackberry in the early part of last decade.  This success was partly due to the fact that it was a revolutionary device, but more importantly, it was a product that the Carrier sales teams found both easy to sell and could make a lot of money doing so.

So, what is holding us back?

  • Most carrier reps talk to the wrong people in order to sell M2M   Since there is a lot of information out there about cellphones / smartphones, most companies do not have a lot of reason to look beyond the Purchasing department to procure these devices.  This is starting to change somewhat, with concepts such as remote access into key ERP systems via smartphones and BYOD (Bring your own Device). But even then, most IT departments don't have a huge influence on what devices or platforms are chosen.  However, M2M solutions offer benefits to other departments (all of them, actually), and as such, the sale has to be made to departments such as Sales, Marketing, Operations or Customer Service.
  • M2M is business changing, so you need to know about their business  An M2M solution can truly take a business to a completely different level, allowing them to reduce costs / maximize productivity. M2M can actually go as far as to change their entire business model.  This is a decision that companies do not take lightly, and as such, they tend to have a lot of questions.  They want to know specifically how the solution will work, how it will integrate into their current systems and what the specific gains for their company will be.  These are topics that tend to scare many front-line sales staff, as they have been more accustomed to selling products/services that don't have such an impact on customers and the decision tends to be a bit more superficial in nature.  We need to change this.
  • Reward = Behaviour  I took a sales training course many years ago and the overwhelming theme of it was simple: you can track the behaviour of a salesperson based almost exclusively on how they are compensated.  M2M solutions did not always offer much excitement for the Carrier salespeople, when they were almost exclusively judged by how they performed against their quota for new activations and ARPU (average revenue per user).  Since M2M solutions offered a lower ARPU than a smartphone, with more complex and lengthy sales cycles, reps were not able to capture/record much of the non-airtime revenue (such as solution design, integration, deployment and hardware). So I can't blame them for putting little focus on M2M.  With the declining ARPU from smartphones, and the increasing competition to sell them, this is starting to change.

So, how do we fix this?  How do we get M2M to move from being a niche application to being more mainstream / easy to sell for the average cellular salesperson?

Embrace the cloud and hosted solutions

One great success story in the world of M2M among cellular Carriers is the success that many salespeople have had (and continue to have) selling canned/hosted solutions for Fleet Management and basic data entry such as mobile forms.  These solutions have proven to be very easy to sell, provided a good source of revenue for the carrier (which means that they go a long way towards the salesperson achieving their sales targets) and have been promoted in a way that appeals to a wide base of customers.  We need to see both the Carriers and solution providers structure their M2M offerings in ways that can reduce the sales complexity (and sales cycle), and to find ways to better arm the front-line salespeople with easy to show ROI calculations that are as general as possible.  Most Carrier salespeople remember the old Blackberry sales pitch about how it saved the average worker 50 minutes (send me a note if I remembered this wrong) a day, and how easy that was to calculate its value.  This was an effective approach to almost any business, and we need to use this approach with M2M.

Make the compensation plans better reflect the world of M2M

Again, compensation = behaviour.  When you fail to compensate people who receive a large portion of their financial reward based on how they do against their sales target, you can't blame them for focusing on the products that allow them to hit this goal the quickest.  As well, the financial world needs to take some blame for this, as much of the focus of carrier's financial performance was based on how well they were able to grow their net activation total, as well as their ARPU.  Since M2M sales tends to be much lower in revenue, these sales tended to have a negative impact on ARPU.  I think both of these things are starting to be addressed already.  We are seeing the financial world accepting the idea of separating ARPU totals into different categories, such as Smartphone and M2M and we are seeing some Carrier salespeople being rewarded for other parts of the sale (including service revenue and hardware) to make it easier to justify focusing on M2M.

Look for a new breed of salespeople

Now, I want to make it clear that I am not advocating anyone losing their job.  When I use the term "a new breed of salespeople", most existing Carrier salespeople have the skill set to be able to achieve great success in this new world of M2M.  What we need to do is to start developing an overall change in the skill set of the average carrier salesperson.  We need to start to attract people who have backgrounds in areas that we have not focused on before....such as analytics, finance, operations and field service.  We need to start to focus our sales teams on things that bring value to their business in ways that they have not focused on before, and as such, we need to bring in skills that allow people to better "talk the talk" of CIOs, CFOs and CTOs.  Finally, we need to start to see people who understand more about the world of IT enter in to our space, since M2M solutions often require integration into key ERP and CRM systems.

As always, let Novotech know how we can help with your M2M needs.  You can visit our web page @ www.novotech.com.  As well, feel free to reach out to me directly ....larry(@)novotech.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter (@NovotechM2M) and you can follow me personally as well (@LBNovotechM2M).