By Anne Carto and Tisha Schuller
If you have ever been in a meeting between oil and gas professionals and the sales team of a tech start-up, you have felt the tension that comes when two parties speak different languages. We have. Oil and gas employees are using foreign, technical vernacular, hurling a dozen different acronyms in the first five minutes! Tech representatives usually begin by attempting to explain to their audience what they see as their problems. Not the way to begin a relationship!
The oil and gas industry prides itself on using the most advanced technology to further its innovative and profitable reputation. On the other hand, tech companies have access to unique innovations that can help to solve the energy industry’s complex societal issues.
We work at the interface of conflicts about oil and gas development and have helped tech companies find their way in the industry. We’re excited to explore how the oil and gas industry and the tech world can better communicate to come up with innovative solutions that will help resolve these conflicts.
Here are three important lessons we have learned along the way that can help tech companies sell into the oil and gas industry:
- The oil and gas industry is a relationship business.
As soon as a tech company first approaches or meets with an oil and gas professional, they are already at a disadvantage. Oil and gas companies are constantly contacted by vendors about new products and processes and do not want to waste a lot of their time vetting them. Acknowledging that you value their time and are striving to understand the problems they are trying to solve is key. Knowing someone within the company or securing a meaningful introduction will get you a long way in finding a relationship that that can be nurtured and lead to business. When seeking those relationships, consider who within the company could be an internal champion for you. The industry values relationships, reputations, and trust. To build those relationships, time constraints and sales cycles should be understood and acknowledged, and all promises should be kept.
- Hire or obtain inside knowledge.
Aside from finding a great introduction to the potential buyer, having inside knowledge of the company and of the industry will be a huge asset. An industry insider will know the company’s reputation, priorities, influential events and policy developments, and the terminology that will help you communicate clearly and knowledgeably. Most importantly, they will help you understand the problems a company needs assessed and solved. If possible, bringing an industry insider on board full-time will help convey your commitment to the industry and build trust in your approach with potential buyers.
- Understand the problem, not just the solution.
Do you like someone telling you what your problem is? Oil and gas companies don’t either. While you may think you understand the problems they are facing, and are sure you have a solution for them, you likely do not fully understand the nuances. Take time to research ahead of time, interview insiders, and ask the potential buyer the right questions before telling them what you can do and how you’ll do it.
Be patient, it can take three years from first contact, through demo project, to meaningful sale. Once you are in, as long as you deliver, the industry is very loyal.