Why Startups Should Stop Selling Technology

After 25 years as founder or executive of almost a dozen startups, I have come to a realization: people don’t want to buy technology.

Perhaps some marketing professionals are thinking, “That’s obvious — don’t sell technology features; sell business benefits.” That said, I still think many startup execs are more prone to marketing their product than promoting the results it achieves.

For example, instead of saying, “We will automate product deployment” you should be saying, “We will get your product to market 50% faster.”

There’s an even more meaningful way to boost sales exponentially while connecting with your customers: sell stories, and lots of them.

Talk about customers who struggled and why. Talk about how your customers succeeded in a vibrant and colourful story.

At youi.tv we have a sales deck that’s updated regularly; I even use it sometimes. Every time we change it I only have one question: What story do we tell on what slides? There are some very fundamental reasons for doing this. The most proven is that people remember stories.

If you deliver a deck with twenty points and then a week later ask the customer which points they remember, it will be very close to zero. I challenge that if it was above zero, it was because they internally associated that point with a story they have lived personally.

If you gave 5–10 stories with 5 key messages in each I think you would be shocked to find they remember nearly all of them a week later. This also means that each one of these people is able and much more likely to spread that story around. People love to tell stories and others love to hear them if they’re compelling.

The last and least obvious reason to use stories is because they convey so much more than simply stating a product’s benefits. A story can communicate your culture, beliefs and mission. The team and I at you.i use stories to communicate the passion and aspiration we have for the products we build for our customers.

To make my point tangible, here are a couple of the stories I tell often:

We took on a 3 week change with 3 developers for Yahoo. They gave us 3 “anything goes” ideas for a menu. At a meeting near the end of the project they came back to us with 3 new design ideas and we said we could deliver. 3 hours later, these 3 new ideas were running on 3 target platforms in California.

Another story I like to tell is about our experience with Sony. Over the course of a 6 month project their team failed to communicate and deliver on a breathtakingly designed UI for a video app. To make a long story short, the head designers were close to tears when they saw what we were able to accomplish in 2 short weeks.

Become your company’s best storyteller and see where it can take you!

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