09/17/2014 04:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The One Key Feature for Selling Enterprise Software - and You Don't Have It

What your program does is secondary in the sale. What the decision maker sees, that's the closer.

You have a great product. It solves a real need for many companies out there. People at those companies evaluate it, see how it is exactly what they need, and make a request to purchase it. Things are great.

And then it waits for approval. And waits. And then... it is denied. The person with signature authority didn't see it solving the problem. Because of something that you view as secondary, that the people who will use it view as secondary, but that the decision-maker views as the product.

For the people using the product, they are focused on what it does and is it solving a problem. For most decision makers, they are focused on the reports generated by the product that tell them what it did. They don't understand the guts of your program, nor should they. They do want to see the results of the program reported clearly to them.

If the reporting in your product is poor, that will lose you sales. If the reports are not providing the information the decision-maker's needs, that will lose you sales. If the reports are ugly, that will lose you sales (a surprisingly large percentage). If you can't quickly change the reports to provide exactly what the prospect wants, that will lose you sales.

I was talking several years ago to the CTO at a local start-up and they had just lost 4 deals in a row because the managers found the reporting component of their product to be inadequate. They had a really good product that solved a serious problem for a lot of companies. The people that would be using it loved it because it did such a good job, and did it well.

But their reporting component was a hard coded slapped together substitute data into HTML that was minimal and could not be changed in any way. And so when the people writing the checks viewed the product in action, and by viewed it in action, that meant looked at the reports showing the results of the program, they saw something minimal and were unwilling to purchase it.

They ended up going out of business.

Create a great product. And then make sure it has great reporting. There are lots of good reporting systems out there that can be incorporated into your program. Be as focused on reporting that will show management how awesome your program is as you are focused on the functionality of the program itself.

At a very successful financial software company in Australia, they have their program set up to generate reports using both Crystal Reports and Windward Reports. Crystal Reports is there for prospects that are price sensitive (they already own Crystal) and are happy with the basic reports.

But when they demo, they use the reports they created using Windward. These are gorgeous and provide a much fuller picture. In addition, because Windward is so fast for editing, when they are asked about having different data presented, they can often do so right in the demo. That closes the decision makers.

This company is still in business and growing rapidly.

Make a great product to close the people who will use it. Add great reports to close the people who sign the check. If everyone's thrilled, then you close more deals, and you close them easier.

Don't make the mistake that if it solves the problem, that alone is sufficient.