The Downside of the Hard Sell
Hard Sell, especially wrong things to wrong people will likely have a negative impact on your Brand, your Sales and Retention, and it is too bad not every Sales and Marketing team understands it.
I think this is a pretty universal statement, though I think it is especially important for Open Source and other companies that rely on community goodwill for Marketing. I will focus on Open Source as this is where I have most experience.
Especially in Business oriented Open Source (based) software there tend to be Buyers (who make purchase decisions) and users who are making a choice to use your software (or if you’re lucky even help you to improve or promote it).
Some users belong to organizations where Buyers exist, some do not. For example many Open Source communities have a lot of very active members who are University students or even High Schoolers who have little (if any) buying power.
These users, although they have no direct “commercial value”, are very important for project adoption, which eventually leads to indirect sales – they tend to socialize and are more likely to talk about Tech they love with their friends, and eventually they move into Business and likely bring their technology choices with them. This is why companies like Oracle, Apple, Microsoft usually run High School/University programs with free or discounted technology for educational purposes, it is not just “helping children”.
Technologists, who I will lovingly call Geeks, want to engage on technology level – they want to know what technology can do for them, what are pitfalls, what works or does not work in practice – both for Free and Paid offerings (if you have them both). What they often do not like is too much of Sales push and too much fluff.
While Sales or Marketing folks may think that there is no harm with that extra Sales call or email, there is actually a risk of losing a person, both as your email and social media subscriber but also as a contributor and brand advocate.
This does not mean you can’t ever-ever talk money to Geeks – if you never bring up the value of your Paid offering compared to just using Open Source version you will lose some sales but keep the proper balance.
I think the best approach is to serve your customer, providing to each “Persona” – a variety of buyers and Technologist information which is relevant for them and which they would like to know, limiting information they would consider “noise”.
Setting expectations is also very important – if you’re running “Sales Event” and have content focused on High Level Decision Makers, make sure it does not sound like Technical Training, to get more Geeks to sign up as they will just resent you for wasting their time.
Having said all of that I think it helps to have some Sales information given to Geeks even if they do not ask it directly. Chances are their friends or Boss will be asking them questions and it is great if they can articulate the value proposition to help to sell your product. This comes second though you need to focus on getting them to Love your product first.