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Several companies I am working with right now are going through various assessment and discovery programs to create justification for larger projects.  This builds on the material presented online last week.

The problem is, most assessments are too technical.  A change is needed if justification is going to be found in your discovery/assessment process.  Here are some points to consider:

  • The assessment should be asset focused.  This means that the questions being asked focus on critical data and applications, rather than infrastructure.  This type of questioning process starts with asset owners who understand the value of their data and how it is used to generate company profits.
  • Business driven.  The discovery process is conducted with business people first.   Questions deal with the business, the data used in the business, and the processes used to conduct business.  Keep you client’s clients in mind, and you’ll be speaking their language.
  • Verified through technical discovery.  Once the business level discovery is complete, you the seller, should have a picture of how data is being created, but whom, and for what.  You will also have ideas on what this company could be doing to improve their situation.  What kinds of automation, risk mitigating strategies, and technology applications would make things more efficient or more secure.  Once you have this, send your technical people into the IT areas for see what is really going on technically.  Validate your hunches and figure out what they really need.
  • Recommendations are written at the asset owner level.  Putting together your findings is the next step, but more often than not, these findings are too technical and not meaningful or understandable by business level people; those who will ultimately approve budget.  Make concrete recommendations – recommendations your business level clients can visualize.
  • Back up recommendations with technical appendices.  I like to treat this as a separate document – something that can be handed to technical people.  The documents you hand to business people must be short, easily absorbed, and strategic. Technical people may have questions and will often not see value in strategic level writings, so having some technical diagrams, data collected, or other evidence that your technical people know what they are doing is a good idea.  This needs to be something that can be handed directly to IT.
  • Present to asset owners.  Your goal is the personally present your recommendations and justification to asset owners, helping them visualize what you are recommending and why.  I like to use the phrase, “What if we could do this or provide that to your customers by doing…?”  Going through several scenarios, I am looking for nodding heads or signs of interest.  There may be some things presented where they look puzzled or disinterested.  Either provide more detail to get buy-in or move on to the things they agree are important.  This is where you will focus your value proposition and proposals/agreements.
  • Have your technical people get with their technical people. Once you have buy-in, your technical people can work with theirs to make sure you have their complete agreement. Your technical people should have already developed this relationship before the discovery process takes place.  This paves the way for acceptance all around.

Remember to focus on the urgent issues – things with high impact, high likelihood.  Many of the things we deem important are not important to decision makers.  We can either work to educate them on why they really are important, or move on to the things they are concerned about.

© 2011, David Stelzl

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How are resellers showing an ROI on managed services deals in order to sell them?  (If you are in channels, I’d be interested in hearing what you are seeing from your partners as well).  Here are some observations along with a White Paper I have written on using assessments to accelerate sales cycles by providing justification to the buyer through risk.

WHITE PAPER: (click and download the Assessment document)

  1. Differentiation and closing the deal seems to have little bearing on the platform; Nable, Zenith, LPI, Kaseya,…some are  better than others technically, but none are great.  The differentiation seems to be in the offering and services provided locally more than the platform.  The better implementations are largely customized and target only small and mid-market opportunities.  After that it’s custom or OEM’d.
  2. Companies that try to show an ROI simply invite an audit of past service calls.  This leads to long sales cycles.
  3. The initial offering may look promising, however once the reseller’s current customer base has been exhausted, sales plateau.  New customers are needed…but hard to find.
  4. Small businesses won’t sign up for monitoring unless the seller can show some kind of justification.  Often they can not.
  5. Reporting is poor among most platforms – the client doesn’t receive much value here.  Trying to creating quarterly value is often a struggle leading to resellers putting their SE’s on site to demonstrate value.  This is done without an accurate counting of the opportunity cost, and is often the thing that makes the monthly contract unprofitable (something generally hidden in the financials.)

Personally I have found that assessments work as deal accelerators (when they focus on risk analysis) – we’ve done them in every sized account; some complementary, others for a fee.  The deal is closed when justified by demonstrating a high likelihood of loss.  What are you seeing?  I’d love to hear your comments on this and the white paper!  If it’s helpful, feel free to pass it on.

© David Stelzl, 2010

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I reallocated!

April 20, 2010 — Leave a comment

Great messaging demands reallocation not budget.  Why did I spend a significant amount of unbudgeted money yesterday!  Here’s why…(this same goes for your prospects)

Here’s how a dentist I didn’t know made a sale to someone who rarely spends money on unbudgeted items or services:

1. This dentist invested time in research and began educating people like my wife (someone with a keen interest in health issues) on the detrimental effects of mercury in fillings.  Education is the key word here – notice I did not say, “blasted us with marketing, advertising, and spam.”  He used sound bites, attraction stories, and trends to create the credibility required to move to the next step of “Buyer permission.”

2. He then offers an assessment.  In his case there is a cost, however he willingly provided some  complementary phone consultation to validate his educational process.  The fee for assessment was low, but the deliverable very informative.  Through the process of examination, photos, x-ray, and inspection he determines the condition of the original fillings, the dangers in leaving things as they are, and the side effects of mercury toxicity to show how it may be effecting the patient (in this case me).  This is all done in a non-technical way, directly with the asset owner – the person with the teeth.

3. Options…clients like options vs. “take it or leave it” recommendations.  This puts the buyer in control at some level, without losing control of the sale.  At the end of this process I did not choose the most expensive option, however I did opt to do more than the minimum.  Why?  Because I felt like  I was receiving honest, informative advisement.  So in the end, my adviser didn’t recommend the most expensive option, he just offered it.  He directed me to an affordable option that covered the most important issues.

4. Closing the deal…once I understood the options, he gained verbal commitment based on prices and services we had agreed on.  An agreement was presented and I signed.

This is a near perfect example of educational marketing – the kind of marketing today’s businesses demand if they are to part with their money.  Even budgeted money is not an easy sale; it still requires justification and buyer level approval before it can be spent.  If you’re in sales, you are also in the educational marketing and advisory business.  If you’re not, your selling days are limited.  Find out more about educational marketing and what I am doing to help sales people master this at http://www.stelzl.us/sales_development_marketing.asp

© David Stelzl 2010