Tips to keep you in the driver’s seat
When a software company dies, the vultures come swarming.
If you’re a former Zerve customer, your phones and inboxes are likely stuffed with sales messages from competing software companies.
It’s already a stressful time in the heat of high season, and it’s a shame that you have to add “managing sales calls” to your list. But in a time like this, it’s important to remember that you’re the one in control.
Sales teams can be pushy–they desperately want your business. But if you know how to manage salespeople, choosing a new booking software becomes easier and less stressful.
Here are a few tips to help you take back control of the buying process.
The first half of this post will help you navigate the flood of sales emails and calls you’ll be receiving. In the second half, we’ll train to spot tricky sales tactics in the demo and negotiation processes so you can make an honest and informed choice about booking software.
P.S. Though it’s never our intention, even the Xola sales team can seem pushy sometimes. If we do, we apologize. We’re human too, and sometimes we just plain “get it wrong” 🙂
What to do when salespeople come calling
Ask for a business proposal
When a salesperson first reaches out, ask for a business proposal that outlines the company’s software, services, and pricing. Having a formal proposal in your hands helps you do the following:
- Collect proposals from various booking systems so you can easily hone in on the features or services that matter to you most.
- Get a promise in writing so that companies come through on sales claims.
A proposal will help you keep all the systems straight and reduce B.S. by forcing companies to put their offers in writing. Make the request and wait for them to send the proposal. They will likely try to talk around it. Hold your ground and refuse a meeting until you receive a proposal. They will be quick to respond.
If you’re responding to sales emails, try copying and pasting a script like this:
Hi [person’s name],
Thank you for reaching out. I am happy to consider our booking software, but I am swamped with running my business and fielding sales calls.
Please reply to this email with an outlined business proposal. You proposal should include:
–Full pricing outline (monthly fees, credit card rates, consumer fees, and transaction fees)
Once I receive your proposal, and I am happy with it, I will reach out to schedule a demo.
All other sales emails will be ignored until then.
Write a list of questions
Good software solves your problems. Sales people are going to want to talk about their strengths, and avoid your problems if they can’t address them.
To prepare for software demos, write a list of questions that address your short term and long term needs.
Requests like 24 hour implementation are important, but don’t forget to address your long term needs too. Booking software is the backbone of any tour or activity company. You will be using their software day-in and day-out.
Think about the things you or your staff does in your booking software every day. You manage reservations, set up schedules, create coupons or discounts, and plenty more. Ask questions that judge the software’s speed and ease-of-use in these categories.
- How quickly can my staff learn the software?
- How easily can customers book online or over the phone?
Make the salespeople address your needs first and have confidence in your software decision for years to come.
A lot of sales teams use tricky tactics to rope people in, but it’s easy to see through them if you know how to respond.
Don’t be satisfied with roundabout answers or unclear messages from your sales rep.
At the same time, be wary of short, vague responses too! “Yes” is not a good enough answer from a salesperson. Demand straightforward honest answers and don’t let them move on to the next thing until they provide a satisfying answer. You can dig deeper by asking these follow-up questions:
- What – Make your sales rep spell things out in detail. It’s easy for a salesperson to claim that they can solve your problems if they don’t have to explain it in detail. If they offer to do something special for you, ask them to describe it in detail.
- How – Force your sales rep to get into the nitty gritty with you. If they offer a 24-hour turnaround to get you up and running with the new software, , ask them to explain exactly how the implementation process works, step by step.
- When – New offerings like call centers are enticing, but can take a long time to get up and running smoothly. Ask for a specific timeline on offerings and what you should expect in the meantime.
Salespeople only get paid if they close deals. Because of that, some will over-promise or make fantastical claims. Demand honesty and clarity, especially if it feels “too good to be true.”
If a booking software company appears to meet your needs, schedule a formal walk-through.
The demo is your chance to ask the probing questions that you brainstormed above. Take notes with each software walk-through to keep your first impressions clear. The more organized you are before and during the demo, the easier it is to reach an honest comparison. Even in hasty situations like this, remember, the software matters.
Interested in Xola’s booking and marketing software? Learn more here.
These approaches will help you part the sea of sales pitches flooding your inbox and voicemail. But that’s only the first hurdle. Once you have demos lined up, stay savvy to see through sales sleights of hand.
Common sales tactics and how to address them
There’s no such thing as a free lunch…or free software.
Sales organizations often use complex pricing and vague messaging to hide their real cost. Demand that they include credit card rates, consumer fees, transaction fees, and monthly fees in their pricing quote.
Remember that customer fees are still fees. Just because your software provider takes their cut before it hits your bank account, doesn’t mean their service is free.
Try turning the pricing question on its head. Instead of asking “how much will you bill me every month?” ask “how much money will you make off my business every month?”
Ask for an exact number based on your booking volume and don’t settle until the cost is clear.
One of the best, and most accurate, ways to understand a software company is to read customer reviews and case studies.
They are often more honest than a sales pitch, and help you understand what the software experience is really like.
To weed out the good reviews from the bad, focus on reviews with these characteristics:
- From Current Customers – Reviews should give you a recent glimpse of the software and the service.
- From Long-Term Customers – You will be using your booking software for years to come. If customers come in happy and leave disgruntled, stay away! Look for companies with proven track records and long-term, happy customers. Take endorsements from brand new customers with a grain of salt.
- From Customers Like You – Not every booking software solution is built for your business model, but sales teams will want you to think that. Look for companies with a track record of serving other Zerve customers, and customers from your industry.
Customer endorsements are hard-won and based on the software’s merit. But there’s another type of endorsement that’s easily bought, and that’s the kind contained in slogans like “Recommended by…” or “The Preferred Alternative.”
It’s important to know the difference between performance-based endorsements, like customer reviews, and the rest. The more validation you can find from customers like you, the better a picture you’ll get of the software.
Discounts & special offers
Pricing discounts and special offers don’t make for better software. Good engineers do!
Focus on quality software first and make sure the price matches the value that you get from it.
Sales organizations take a big risk when they discount their software. The bigger the discount, the more important it is to ask these questions:
- Is it sustainable? – Many sales organizations will offer discounts or special services to stay competitive, but irresponsible price slashing could jeopardize the company’s finances.. Avoid fantastical promises and look for companies with a strong understanding of their software’s value.
- Is it competitive? – cheaper isn’t the same as cheapest. When a company offers a discount, ask them to translate it into dollars and compare with their competitors.
Integrity matters. If you wouldn’t run your business like they do, why would you want them as a partner?
Avoid companies who use mean-spirited tactics to drag down their competitors.
That being said, salespeople are human. When your paycheck relies on making sales, things can get a little nasty.
If you run into a salesperson who tries to take a cheap-shot at their competitors, simply ask them to stop. Remind them who they are (a good person!) and who they should be.
You’ve got this
In times like this, it’s important to remember to step back and take a deep breath. We hope these tips make the process a little less stressful.
If you’re interested in watching a demo of Xola’s booking software, click the link below or call us at +1 (415) 404-9652.
We wish you a stress-free search, and hope you find the best software for your business 🙂
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