For those of you who aren't aware, the quote that I refer to is a famous one from Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra.  It humorously refers to when you have seen something before, twice actually.

I have the privilege of speaking at a lot of events and a number of them are focused on teaching teams (including Carriers) how to improve their M2M-selling capabilities.  After finishing one recently, I noticed that of the 60 or so people in the room, about 1/3 were very excited (taking notes, asking questions) and about 2/3 looked utterly frightened.  The reason for their fear was simple…M2M takes them out of their comfort zone.

I started to think...where have I seen these types of looks before?  Then it occurred to me, I saw them when I was trying to evangelize both the first wave of Blackberry and the first wave of USB sticks! 

Many of you know that I worked at a Carrier in the late 90's/early 2000's, always focusing on the wireless data side.  I remember standing up in front of a room of colleagues and pushing the idea of how this new device/service (BlackBerry) was going to be the growth in the industry.  While some got it right away, about 2/3 looked at me like I was crazy.  Remember, selling cell phones was still a good way to make a living, why would I take any time away to sell these things? This was a common reaction. Flash forward 15 years and these people look downright like Mad Men now.

The same held true for USB sticks.  Remember, these were not the "rocket speed" sticks that are being sold today. These were more comparable to a slow dial-up speed AND you paid by the minute!  However, many people who were early adopters loved the idea of working from an airport (no free WiFi back then) or from their cottage.  Still, it was an uphill battle to get these people to move these products.  Now today, the devices have matured to offering available LTE speeds in most tablets, so it shows you that the trend of mobile access definitely was a good one.

So, is the pattern the same for M2M?  Unfortunately, it is, but that does mean that the carrier reps who learn about this stuff now will be in a much better position when the inevitable "hockey stick curve" happens.

So, what can we do now to move this forward quicker? Here are three thoughts:


1.    Take the complexity out of it

One advantage that Blackberry/USB sticks had over M2M (in the ability for Carrier reps to sell it) is that most people used email and accessed the Internet, so it really wasn't a matter of telling someone "what?" but rather, "why?".  M2M is a bit different, as the simple concept of automatically gathering information is not something they normally have used.

  • So, the first thing we have to do is better educate the solutions to teach the Carrier reps "what is M2M?".  I think we have done a decent job so far, but we are not there yet. 
  • Next, we need to continue to find ways to bundle M2M into packaged solutions wherever possible.  I think AVL sales have shown this works. 
  • Finally, we need to start to use simpler examples for customers and let their imaginations take it to a more complex level.  I showed a number of people how I have been using M2M for my health recently, as an example, and they immediately applied it to their generators (as it is just information gathering after all).

2.    Slow down growth of smartphones (kind of already happening, don't you think?)

Nothing gets someone moving like desperation.  Sure, companies like Apple and Samsung aren't "drilling dry wells" with their new products, but the number of net new devices at the Carriers is not what it used to be on the smartphone side.  So, many salespeople only take on new products when they are dragged there "kicking and screaming" and some of them are feeling a tug on their collar.

M2M isn't the only growth area for Carrier reps, as MDM and other services have serious upsides, but with the recent hype around IoT, it sure is high on the list.

3.    Have them watch their competitor do it first

Salespeople, aside from often being talented speakers, are often very competitive.  So, while losing a sale hits their bottom line, it also hits their ego.  Nothing makes a salesperson perk up to a solution more than when they lose a sale to their competitor on a solution they did not think to introduce first.

If you are looking for an easy way to simply start a conversation, I wrote a recent blog post on the 3 questions to ask a customer about M2M....this is a good place to start.

The Bottom Line

Selling M2M is really not that hard, once you get a basic understanding of the benefits that it brings and that it often provides a different value for different companies, even in the same industry.  As a Carrier rep, your job is to ask the questions to get your customers thinking (as opposed to just stuffing a solution down their throat). To sell an M2M solution, you must work customers through the process of determining how M2M can help their business.  Or, you can miss out on the trend like many did on Blackberry....the choice is yours.