Tag Archives: Sales

Eventually…

If you stay in the game long enough, you’ll find yourself visiting the same customer in the same meeting rooms multiple times in a sales cycle.

If you stick around longer, you’ll find yourself visiting the same customer in the same meeting rooms in a different sales cycle with a different sales team.

When you’re a grizzled veteran, you’ll find yourself visiting the same customer in the same meeting rooms, but with different customer contacts and a different sales team.

Eventually…

You’ll find yourself visiting the same customer in the same meeting rooms, but this time you’ll be with a different vendor, selling the replacement to the solution you sold them a decade ago when the world was young and a quart of milk was still a quarter.

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Solve the Problem or Change the Game?

Solution Engineer. Solution Consultant.  Solution Advisor.

Different titles for the same role,* but our common skill is taking a matrix of information and experience and solving problems.  When challenged to solve for X, we’ll provide the right answer and we’ll factor efficiency, access, cost, time, and other considerations into our mix.  Solution consulted, advised and engineered.

But.

How often do we think about solving for Y instead?  Can we look at the data and see a bigger picture? Can we suggest a different vision to the customer?

That might be when we become Pre-Sales.

* How many have you had on your business cards through the years?
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Let the Customer Open

Surely in your qualification and discovery conversations* you’ve covered the basic purpose of your planned meeting: who will be in the audience, what their expectations are, and an agreed upon agenda.

But when it comes to the meeting itself, have your host open the meeting and lay these details out for agreement.  In this way, the meeting is by the customer, for the customer, and about the customer, rather than by, for, and about you and your products and services.  If there’s disagreement or there are political struggles going on, the audience members can resolve these things themselves without you having to defend.

The stage is now set on their terms. Your presence is to help them in their decision-making processes.

Now you can begin to share why you’re there to show, how you’re going to do that, and what you want them to take away.**

*No, “just give them the standard overview” is not a qualified discovery
** Which is, by the way, a fantastic three step introduction framework.  Quick, to the point.  On with the show!
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Complete, Fully Integrated, End to End

I once had a humorous poster listing Murphy’s Laws on Technology, which included this shrewd observation:

Any given program, while running, is obsolete

…because everything can be improved.  You’re never done.  There’s always something that could be added or taken away; another angle, a new technology, a change in the market that will render your solution, well, obsolete, even if it’s fresh into customer beta.

Claiming a solution to be complete, fully integrated, and end to end is an unnecessary and lazy sales tactic.  Any skeptic in your audience will perk up and start challenging you.

  • It’s clearly not complete.  There’s always something more that customization or competitive solutions can do. But maybe it fits their needs now with room to grow?
  • Fully integrated implies that two systems are as one.  And they aren’t.  They’re two systems brought together through integration technologies and choices.   That the integration is packaged, configurable, and supported is the value.
  • End to end applies to use cases and transactional data in a business process.  What your customer cares about is their use-cases and their business process.  Talk specifically about how your solution handles those from end to end.
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Self-Justified Perception

Anyone who has been witness to a political argument will recognize the mental contortions and logical leaps the participants will put themselves through to justify their initial position.  Each starts with their end in mind and the debate is merely flogging a dead horse, more entertaining than useful for the witnessing crowd.  Minds are rarely changed.

What is the perception your customer has of your business, your solutions, your position in the marketplace?* What end will they justify throughout your presentation?

If it’s positive, then your job is simply to reinforce.  If you don’t stray too far on your walk through the woods, the customer will see the path for themselves, even through incomplete messages and proof-points.  They’ll fill in the gaps to justify their perception.

If it’s negative, then heaven help you.  You have to change perception and overcome every spike of doubt that enters your audience’s mind.  No amazing features or functions will overcome that bias.  They’ll fill in the gaps to justify their perception.

So you have to set the perception first.  You have to tell a better story than they’ve told themselves, a better story than the competition has told them.  Your audience has to be onboard with your premise before you begin to show the clicks, screens and apps which will solve their problem.

How?  Here are some positioning approaches:

  • Start talking about your current customers.  Find the stories.
  • Empathy and listening to the customer’s problem can be the difference-maker.  Genuine problem solving might be best when the customer’s choice is between you and doing nothing.
  • Show the long term versus the short term, expanding
  • Don’t start with “well, you probably think we’re…” as that will simply remind, reinforce, and solidify their perception
  • “Nobody ever got fired for choosing Big Blue…” if you’ve got the reputation, flaunt it
  • Grab onto the tail of the comet / Elevator is at the ground floor / Be a superstar
  • Platform, platform, platform.  The technology world is always changing.  Your platform is the basis for the next big thing.

Good luck; you have minds to change.

* More importantly, what is your perception of your business, your products, your position in the marketplace?
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Social Feedback Loop

Don’t you love it when you get a message from LinkedIn that people are looking at your profile?

Don’t you love it even more when the person doing the looking is the customer you just had a solid interaction with?  It’s like getting a firm handshake at the end of the meeting.

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Communication, understanding, problem-solving, relationship-building

When you get your hair cut, there’s usually a big mess on the floor when you’re done.  The same applies when you’re solving business problems with customers:

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Swamp Juice

The soda fountain has every choice you could want: cola, root beer, ginger ale, cherry, lemon lime, iced tea, even water.

My kids look at all that and make swamp juice.

What do your customers really want from all the features, functions, and best practices built into your product?  A logical choice?  No. They don’t buy that; they buy on emotion.

And free re-fills.

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Frontrunner

Everyone recognizes the leader- he’s the one in front.

But is it in your customer’s best interest to pick the frontrunner?

There are so many ways of getting to the lead; some deserved, some not:

  • Being there first
  • Staying close and passing at the last moment
  • Carrying on when everyone else gives up
  • Being pushed to the front
  • Cutting the line
  • Standing still while everyone regresses
  • Building an insurmountable lead and then resting
  • Running your own race

Which are you this time?

In golf they don’t ask how, they ask how many.

In business, your customer might be wise to focus on how the frontrunner got there.

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Why so competitive?

Because we like to win

or…

Because we like to compete

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