Dec 07, 2009Given the current economic downturn, many providers of radio frequency identification hardware, software and services are struggling. I've been frustrated that more businesses are not investing in RFID. During a recent conversation about why that is the case, an end user suggested I read the book Selling to Big Companies, by Jill Konrath, to help me understand the reasons RFID vendors aren't getting through to large enterprises.
I found the book to be a very successful sales trainer, and very interesting. Konrath describes the state of mind of the current end user, who lives in a corporate world of mergers and acquisitions, downsizing, rightsizing, reengineering and constant pressure from investors to deliver 10 percent profits year after year.
Konrath writes: "Corporate decision makers aren't just struggling with an immense workload. Every day, they're bombarded with thousands of marketing messages coming at them from every direction—television, road signs, radio, online, reading, mail, voice mail and more. No matter what they do, they can't escape.
"The noise from these pervasive and intrusive marketing practices has become so unbearable to your prospective customers. They ignore unsolicited attempts to capture their attention. They disregard claims of superiority or differentiation, viewing those claims as marketing puffery, created for the sole purpose of manipulation."
Corporate buyers, she says, "know that products and services like yours are available everywhere—and probably at lower cost. From their perspective, almost everything is a commodity. Cynicism reigns supreme."
According to Konrath, buyers just don't have time to investigate new solutions, and technology sellers are not competing against one another—they're competing with the status quo. It's easier, safer and less time-consuming, she argues, for a big company to do nothing.
Vendors need to educate the market about the benefits RFID can deliver, instead of bashing competitors every chance they get. This education brings more potential end users into the market. (Bashing competitors only shrinks the pie, by promoting the belief among end users that RFID is still not mature enough to be deployed.) They also need to target their sales efforts on the companies most likely to deploy a system, which means those actively researching how RFID can solve their business problems.
Last week, RFID Journal published a special report for RFID technology providers, entitled Understanding the RFID Buyer (see Understanding RFID Technology Buyers). This report, available in our online store, or free with a new Premium Membership, contains the most detailed information ever published on the types of companies investing in RFID today, as well as which personnel within a typical firm makes buying decisions, the applications in which they are interested, and much more.
The report is based on phone and Internet surveys of 200 end users, which RFID Journal conducted in November 2009, as well as on an analysis of our database of readers who are end users. I think the report will help vendors understand who the likely buyers are, how they obtain information on vendors and how they select systems.
Our report reveals that the majority of companies investing in RFID today have more than 1,000 employees. Selling to big companies, Konrath makes clear, is harder than ever. RFID Journal's readers and event attendees are not like the buyers Konrath describes, however. They have a problem and are actively researching solutions. They represent the best prospects—perhaps the only real prospects—for RFID vendors. But they, too, are busy and cynical about vendors' claims. So how can you reach them?
Konrath has a lot of great ideas to help vendors get in the doors of large companies and kindle interest in their solutions. So I've invited her to speak at RFID Journal LIVE! 2010, which will be held in Orlando, Fla., on Apr. 14-16. I hope vendors come and listen to her speak, because I think they'll learn a lot from her. I know I did.
Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.