Monthly Archives: May 2012

“Well, I guess you’re a manufacturing company.”

Years ago, in a discovery session with a manufacturing company, my peers (manufacturing, planning, and production are not my forte) poked and prodded as we walked about the facility, asking insightful questions about the customer’s operations, the challenges they faced, how they ran this and that process, when they resorted to manual lists and spreadsheets, when they made decisions with autonomy, when they went up the hierarchy; they even discussed the most economical approach cutting small pieces of steel out of a large piece of scrap.

In short, my peers proved themselves to be not just product and solution experts, but to truly be subject matter experts.

The moment that most impressed me was at the end of the day when, gathered around a table (okay, a folding-table like you get at Sam’s Club) in a conference room just off the manufacturing floor, one of my peers exhaled a sigh and summarized her day with, “Well, I guess you’re a manufacturing company.” Chuckles and agreement all around. Obvious but true.

This is winning the deal in discovery.

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Schedule the demo early in the sales cycle…

…because, as the old joke goes, the demo is the last event before closing the deal.

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Circles and lines

“What will you be demonstrating at the customer conference?”

Well, I hardly know.  Who is going to walk up?  What will their needs be?

And so, before demonstrating solutions to generic problems, I engage in discussions about their business, their challenges, their needs.

Between us, on a blank sheet of paper, circles and lines form expressing a conceptual solution with the myriad players and processes involved.  Then I demonstrate specific solutions to their problems, hitting the points meaningful to them.

I used to tear off the sheets and hand them to the patron as a keepsake but these days they snap a picture with their phone and walk on.  Next year, I’ll draw them out on my iPad and email them.

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Strange but true…

It’s easy to buy, yet it’s hard to sell.

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That’s his prerogative

When all the preparation is done, when all the stories are prepared, when all the data is set for stunning execution, it’s still the prerogative of the key customer in the audience to say something like…

“I don’t need to see the whole day-in-the-life demo and how a user goes about creating this or that- I just have a few key questions.”

That’s his prerogative, and it’s an invitation to step up and play some tough one-on-one.

It’s just you and him.  You’re ready.  It’s what you’ve really been preparing for.  Knock him out with all you’ve got.

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Motivations in the life cycle of experience

We go through a succession of motivators as we gain experience:

  • Fear of failure
  • Proving yourself
  • Taking risks
  • Being Bold
  • Leadership

Where are you on your journey?

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Give them something to grab onto

Nothing works like an analogy to help an audience come to a shared understanding.

It doesn’t matter if you’re in initial qualifications, discovery meetings, or final solution presentations.  When you can effectively characterize their situation, their systems, or their goals, an engaged customer will grab onto the characterization and start using it, changing it, adding on to it.  They’ll use it to explain to their peers who didn’t make the meeting.  It will become the water-cooler joke.  They’ll name the project after it.  They’ll remember it when you visit them two years later.

In a recent discovery meeting, we came to the realization with the customer that they “just wanted to replace the old van,” and nothing more.  What do you think my demo theme is going to look like?

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