Monthly Archives: March 2012

A series of sprints

The Pre-Sales role is like a series of sprints.

From one opportunity to the next, from standing still to full speed when the gun goes off. You discover, plan, message, prepare, deliver, follow up, then rest until the gun goes off again. 2:30 in the morning configuration. Four hours of sleep. The long flight home, crashing on a Friday night.

Then again, the Pre-Sales role is like a marathon.

Deals last for months, sometimes years. The reps trying to land them come and go and come back again. The RFP is pushed. The close that was expected in December happens late in March. Last minute demos. Second and Third presentations to the same decision makers. Budget cycles. Competitors change the game.

You know what? Running is a terrible analogy for Pre-Sales.

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“Why, I just shake the buildings out of my sleeves.”

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright used to cajole his architect students with this quip.

He meant that he was constantly working ideas out in his head and the process of drafting, of drawing, wasn’t creative, it was just the point at which he put his ideas down on paper.

We’re always thinking.  Media such as pen and paper, Post-It notes, blogs, and recordings help thinking along.  If you wake up in the middle of the night bursting with ideas, get out of bed and write them down.  Welcome associations from every aspect of life.  Mash-up your experiences against software systems expectations and create a new line of thought*
Your presentation and demonstration preparation are idea capture and articulation. Shake those solutions out of your sleeves.

*Why isn’t a Human Capital Management system more like Facebook?  Why doesn’t a Sales Force Automation system behave like Amazon?

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Imagine yourself in a Cordoba

Our peer-approved standard is the day-in-the-life demonstration.  Agreed?

Our energy and creativity are poured into the perfect and entertaining demo mold of how our customer could use our system throughout their day.  The premise is they’ll see themselves clicking, typing, dragging-and-dropping merrily away in our system.  Because they’ll see how their life will be better, their business processes improved, simpler, faster, and automated through the use of our solutions, there’s no doubt they’ll go with us.

If we’re all saying “Imagine yourself in a Cordoba, surrounded in rich Corinthian leather,” then as competitors we’re all just trying to win the test-drive.  Heck, if they’re walking on the lot, chances are they’re going to drive home in something new today.

We’ve got to do something different.

Who’s the silent party in every day-in-the-life demonstration?  Their customer.  Who is on the other side of the order, return, marketing campaign?  Why, it’s our customer’s customer.

By thinking about that person’s day-in-the-life, how they interact with your customer, and what could make a better solution (the buzzword today is customer experience) for them, you’ll come up with insights for your solution and demonstration that are unique and visionary.   This approach will transform you from an entertaining  demonstrator of requirements into a trusted advisor.

Added bonus: This kind of solution creation gets visionaries excited.  Visionaries are usually in lead decision-making roles.  When they get excited, your sales execs will take notice and begin steering the conversation towards commitment and closure.

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W(h)ither email?

The world of communications has been undergoing drastic changes in the last decade.

Instant messages.  Tweets.  Direct Messages.  Notifications.  Postings on your wall*. Texts. Comments.

Diggs. Pins.  Pluses. Reddits. Likes. Recommends. such del,icio.us.ness.

But with us still is the lowly Inbox, bastion and lord-fatherer of direct messaging and spam, the catch-all and ever-over-flowing message box for all these new social services.  “Do this, have you seen, where are you, how are you, can you get back to me, internal only, high priority, end of day, please join the call we’ve started without you.”

All our devices bend over backward to serve this lowest common denominator. If you need me, the Inbox is the place to find me.  It really hasn’t changed much in the last decade. To, CC, BCC. Re, Fwd. Reply. Reply all.  Grandma gets it and the eight year old can leverage it.

Why hasn’t email changed?  Is it atomic? Can it go away?  It’s Pavlov’s Bell, calling us to nibble our way through the day.  It’s the central communications of the business user; the Knowledge Base, address-book, file system and calendar; the bane of IT and the one toolset users truly learn in depth.  Well, that and Excel.

Whither email? Here today, tomorrow and next week.  Wither? Never.

*Honestly, I tried Facebook for fifteen minutes and found it incomprehensible. But in those fifteen minutes I did receive friend invites from acquaintances of acquaintances and, well, my time is better used than that.

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Drummers Wanted

The “Rock Band” video game can teach you to drum. It gives you a real-world challenge and you have to apply real drumming techniques to succeed.  With repetition, your skills increase and you learn to play the drums.

Conversely,  “Rock Band” cannot teach you how to play guitar.  It gives you watered down challenges and you can get away with a simplified technique.  It’s superficial.

In the world of Pre-Sales, one road helps you develop an in-depth understanding of business over time.  The other leads to a career in marketing.

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Three strategies

Evolutionary.  Your product has better features/functions/usability than the competition.  You know these points well and can bring them to the front in demonstrations.  Usability, capability, and ease of access all play a role here.

Revolutionary.  Your product has taken the market expectations and gone a whole generation beyond.  You’re thought leaders, innovators, and the risk-taking customers clamor to be with you.

Visionary… in the eyes of your customer.  You look at their needs and find a way to revolutionize their business.  You bring unique combinations of capabilities (some of them even mundane) together to help them better achieve and define themselves. This is what they start to see in the Revolutionary solutions, but here it’s brought into sharp focus.

Being Visionary is the joy of business to me.  It is truly the engineering side of Pre-Sales.

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“Good luck with that”

Have you ever shared a dream or a goal with someone to have them respond, “good luck with that?”

What fatalism. How cynical.

Prove them wrong.

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Today’s specials…

Hi my name is Karen welcome to Anthony’s for today’s-specials we have a caramelized-pear salad with fresh strawberries with brown butter caramelized pears roasted sweet potatoes fresh sliced strawberries and goat cheese drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette we also have broccoli-rabe and grilled Italian sausage sauteed with garlic and olive oil topped with grilled Italian sausage and fresh mozzarella with shaved romano cheese.* Can I get you a drink?

Slow down.

When a waiter rips through the specials of the day that fast I can’t follow them. They know the specials list well. They’ve memorized it, have had the specials themselves and professional wait-staff has their own set of notes about each dish.

But ripping through them as if preparing the passenger cabin for takeoff doesn’t help me, the audience, understand them. I’m still trying to figure out what a caramelized pear is never mind the sum of the salad’s parts.

When you’re presenting systems and features, slow your pace, add some emphasis, give each thing you mention a purpose, pause, let it soak in, and then onto the next one.

*to her credit, she did this without a stream of acronyms.

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Please speak into the microphone

At a seminar this week, in a conference room crammed with thirty of my ‘Type A’ peers, a presenter stood up and said “I’m not going to use the microphone, can everyone hear me okay?”

He encountered an immediate and emphatic chorus of “no!”s, relented, and used the microphone.  We continued without incident and understood his presentation.

There’s a kickoff meeting for the sports teams at my local high school every athletic season.  The gym is filled with parents and athletes and without fail, the Athletic Director stands up for his presentation and says, “I’m not going to use the microphone, can everyone hear me okay?”

The audience fails to respond* and he continues without the microphone.  We continue without incident, nobody understands his presentation, and everyone’s time is wasted.

My questions to you:

Who’s at fault?

What, my professional presenter friends, would prevent this issue in the first place?

*Except me. When I said “No” those near me turned around to hammer down the nail that stuck up.

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