"Sales". Just the word itself provokes an immediate reaction in many people, because "sales" has a bad reputation. Whether it's cold calling, pushy hard sellers, or spam, when we think of selling we often default to thinking about our negative experiences.
But the truth is, games businesses can't exist without some form of sales. In fact, no business can. Even us, as individuals, must engage in selling in one of it's many forms. Whether it's selling ourselves, selling our ideas to our colleagues, or trying to convince that next big company to work with you... Selling is essential.
We've been serving the games industry for over ten years, and it's a unique sector. You simply must understand it in order to sell effectively within it. So today on the blog, we want to share some of our thoughts, tips, and tricks for how to sell in the world of games. We'll be focussing specifically on B2B selling, but many of the approaches apply to any number of situations. How does that sound? You're sold? Then we're off to a good start...
Why is the games industry different?
There are a handful of reasons why the games industry stands out compared to other sectors when it comes to selling. One of the most obvious is that unlike many industries, it is heavily influenced by passion. Companies still exist to make money, but they also want to make art, and they want to make entertainment which they are passionate about.
That passion can actually be useful, as it gives you something to tap into when starting up conversations. But it also means that they care deeply, and will not be as willing to settle for less-than-perfect options you put on the table.
"... an incredibly high bar for technical and creative output..."
In fact, the games industry is loaded with people who have an incredibly high bar for technical and creative output. When you think about some of the games that get released nowadays, it's not surprising. Games companies are often pushing the boundaries of computing, the limits of artistic achievement, and constantly bettering themselves. Some of the biggest games dedicate hundreds of hours to tiny, almost insignificant details in their game worlds, to make them feel as real as possible. Sloppy work isn't going to cut it.
So how do you do it? How do you sell to games businesses?
Mission: Deliver Value
First of all, start delivering value to people that you meet and talk to. Don't wait for a win. Don't wait for an agreement to work together, or a contract, or anything like that. Instead, immediately offer advice, thoughts, resources, sponsorship, and listen to concerns. Essentially, this is making an investment with no guarantee on specific returns, but it will help you ingratiate yourself to the community, and help you understand the best ways your business might be able to help this industry in the future.
And, you have to be sincere about it! We've mentioned that many companies in this space are fuelled by passion, and to put your best foot forwards, you'll need to be driven by passion too. You'll need to be genuinely interested in games and gaming. You'll need to care. And you'll need to be authentic. This isn't about proving your credibility as a "real hardcore gamer" or any kind of specific stereotype you need to fit into - it's just that regardless of what kinds of games you play and what games inspire you, people will see through you if your only interest in the sector is financial.
Be interested, not interesting
Obviously, at some point, you would prefer to become interesting. But when you're starting out, or starting a new relationship with new people, the best way to be is to be interested rather than interesting. Be the one asking questions, and listen thoughtfully to the answers.
People will always be wary of a hard sell, so don't feel the need to pitch yourself too soon. Get to know each other, be curious, understand the context around who you're talking to. If an opportunity is there, then it will come about in due time.
If you offer services to games companies, you'll likely find that their initial preference will be to keep things in house, where possible. But at some point, they'll reach a tipping point - where non-development concerns become a distraction - and they just want to focus on making the game. Surely someone else can handle the other stuff? That moment is when you're perfectly positioned to share more about what you offer. But many people you talk to won't be at that tipping point just yet, and that's okay.
Gaming is an extremely lucrative industry. Billions of dollars are made every year by games companies. But despite these incredible numbers, the sector is actually surprisingly small. It's tiny. People talk.
With that in mind, word of any kind of hard selling is likely to travel fast. So, always be focused on the right principles for selling to games businesses: Offering value, passion, authenticity, thoughtfulness and curiosity.
With a careful and considered approach, the word "sales" doesn't have to be negative. It will become the power up that gets your business through each financial quarter. And it could be all that stands between you, and the next level for your company.