Sky Blue Technology allows customers to test drive software solutions

FARGO - The process of making a sale has changed a great deal in recent years. For example, car buyers today often go to the lot after first researching online. They know what model they want and what they are prepared to pay.
Fargo-based Sky Blue Technology is a new tech firm devoted to empowering sales and marketing teams to shorten the sale cycle. Nick Wagner / The Forum

FARGO – The process of making a sale has changed a great deal in recent years. For example, car buyers today often go to the lot after first researching online. They know what model they want and what they are prepared to pay.

Kari Peterson, co-founder of Sky Blue Technology, said selling software is no different, and it's throwing some salespeople for a loop.

"They're used to the older sales model where they sit down and show the buyer the software solution," Peterson said. "But, in many cases today, people say, 'Just give me the information, let me look at it, and I'll get back to you with questions.' "

Peterson and her business partner, Amy McKinnon, recently launched Sky Blue Technology, a new cloud-based platform making that possible.

The women met several years ago at Microsoft, where Peterson was a Microsoft Dynamics trainer and McKinnon continues to work as a consultant. In the Microsoft Dynamics world, Peterson said it's up to the partners to sell the software, so they were keenly aware of the challenges those companies faced.

Instead of loading software on a laptop for a client demonstration, Sky Blue Technology allows sales and marketing folks to upload the software to a secure, cloud-based site where customers can test it. It also collects user analytics for the seller such as how long the customer spent on the site.

McKinnon compared the concept to an Apple store at a mall.

"What do they try to do? They try to entice you to come in the store and try it. Get your hands on it. Once you start using it, you can see it's easy and it's friendly. It's comfortable to use," she said. "So, really, a lot of software companies today have this glass box around their software. (Customers are) looking in at this glass box and thinking, 'How am I ever going to be able to touch that and play with it and really get to know if it will work in my organization?' "

Peterson added that using Sky Blue Technology should shorten a company's sales cycle, which will often increase its bottom line. She explained that some salespeople spend as much as 58 percent of their time doing administrative work such as emailing or sending information out to customers.

"If you could give them even 8 percent back to focus on core selling, think of the impact that would make to your bottom line," Peterson said. "The way we do that is by packing all this information up. They're no longer having to search for the most recent materials. It's all pulled together. It's all done."

Although the site was specifically created to sell software, Peterson and McKinnon said it can be useful for any company to collect their sales and marketing information in the cloud.

They offer an Essentials package for customers who only need to share documents, PDFs and video for $299 per month. The Premier Package, available for $499 a month, includes that live software piece. It also provides increased security so a company's information does not land in the hands of a competitor.

Four-month startup

McKinnon and Peterson launched the company in November and built the software solution over the winter with the help of a team of developers for Oriana IT Solutions in Mumbai, India. They debuted it in March at a Microsoft convention in Atlanta.

Peterson said they were able to move so quickly thanks to support from Emerging Prairie, the North Dakota State University Research and Technology Park and the Innovate North Dakota program, among others.

She said a special thank-you is due to Specialisterne, a global nonprofit that trains individuals with autism spectrum disorders to work in information technology fields. Specialisterne employees have tested the site and provided software quality assurance.

McKinnon said that's important because she and Peterson can sometimes get caught up in coding and the back end of the site. Specialisterne employees ensure the site remains user-friendly for the client.

McKinnon also wanted to give credit to their families. Peterson is a mother of four and McKinnon has two children. McKinnon said going into business for themselves wouldn't be possible without their support.

Business Profile

What: Sky Blue Technology

Contact: (800) 372-7592