Archives For discovery

IMG_9025“What questions should I ask when meeting with an executive?” This question came up about three times last week during various marketing events, coaching calls, and emails with clients – “Can we put together a list of questions for the sales team to use when talking to executives?”  I usually get this question when talking about Marketing Events and Demand Generation follow up – that’s about the only time I see sales people really engaging with executives in a proactive discovery process.

It feels better to have a list of questions – a list of 5 to 7 questions that can be read from a script, with a place to record answers.  But don’t expect this to actually work.  If it were that simple, sales people would be in front of executives with a list like this all the time.  My experience is, once you pull out the list, you’ll lose your audience’s attention.  One size can’t fit all – and if you need a list, it’s clear that you don’t do this very often.  Imagine pulling out a list to ask your spouse how their day went.  What would they think?  Well, they might wonder if this were a conversation or a project for school?

What Questions Should I Ask?

Instead, I recommend using a framework.  A series of topics that guide the conversation.  This framework has to be second nature – memorized.  This takes some practice.  In my book, The House & the Cloud (available for free as a PDF from my blog sidebar), I provide an example of a security focused discovery conversation.  I start out by exploring things that my client feels are critical to their business.  The heading reads, “What are you trying to protect?”  But the essence of the question goes much deeper – because its not really a question; its a framework.  I am searching for those applications and data repositories that contain highly valuable data.  It might be client data, intellectual capital, or some application that allows the business to work ten times faster than it would if certain work were done manually.

The second line of questioning focuses on threats.  “What would threaten these critical systems?”  This requires some give and take.  The client may not know how to answer this – the sales person might need to explore this with the client, coming up with possible threats based on the business vertical, type of data, cybercrime trends, or current conditions of the business (for instance, on the cusp of some new invention.)  The final area deals with the company’s ability to detect a problem before it’s too late.  This is a shorter question.  At this point, the sales person would have most of the data they need, but would want to know how comfortable this particular “Asset Owner” (as I describe in the book) is with their company’s ability to see into the network.  Don’t confuse this with a technical question about intrusion prevention software.  What you’re looking for here is a clue as to how safe or vulnerable this asset owner (who owns some level of liability) feels with regard to their data and applications.

How Does A Sales Person Learn This?

How does a sales person master this process?  The simple answer is, “training and coaching”.  Unfortunately, at least in this industry (technology sales), companies have substituted product knowledge for sales training.  Knowing your product is necessary, however, product knowledge is not sales training.  The executive discovery process is something that takes practice.  It’s intimidating to walk into a business owner’s or VP’s office.  One bad meeting with a CIO might be the final nail in the coffin for a promising account.  But what if the sales manager were to set aside time weekly, during the sales meeting, to run through a few tips and to have a couple of people practice?  What if it were part of the regular routine to provide new insights and experiences shared by other team members?  Perhaps you could master this skill.

Getting Started

A great conversationalist has a skill – and great sales people need this skill.  When it comes to working with executives, and working through the discovery process at that asset owner level, there is no substitute for having been trained and coached on executive level conversations and interview skills.  Here are three things you can do right now to get started:

1. Read the CIO journal section of the Wall Street Journal – be able to discuss trends such as cloud services, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), social business, and information security, and be able to make application to business.

2. Read the books other executives are reading.  This might require you to ask around – which can’t hurt.  Recent books by Jim Collins are always a good place to start.

3. Practice…look for people in social settings and push yourself to listen and learn from them.  Ask questions about how they got into their profession, what has made them successful, how they would advise a young person entering their field, and what cautions they might give to someone entering that field.  People love to share their war stories.

© 2013, David Stelzl

 

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Preorder Now!

A couple of key points from today’s webinar:

1. The discovery process deserves some re-engineering.  It is by far the greatest accelerator you have once in the account, and is the thing that will take your team from being a vendor, to being seen as a strategic adviser.  Don’t miss this point – don’t assume your consultants are fine doing what they do.  Make this part of your company great, and you will beat the competition.

2. Every executive relies on advisers – in areas of legal advice, health, financial, and perhaps marriage, spiritual, and who knows.  Who is advising them on the the proper use of technology?  It could be you…but do you command the same respect they give to their investment advisers?  You should…

3. The discovery deliverable is your ticket to “really big” business!  Make sure it is great…spend some time on this.  Don’t just write it, get advice on it, hire a writer if you have to – but pull together a sample that clients can’t refuse – then equip every sales person with a copy and teach them what to do with it!

If you missed this session, let me know and I will tell you how you can get a copy of the recording…

© 2011, David Stelzl

From my Window

Back in Vegas, and looking forward to delivering a session from my new book, From Vendor to Adviser – which will focus on meeting executives and business owners using the discovery process, and moving from pure vending to truly advising…Hosted by Ingram Micro at the Aria this year.  Don’t miss it!

© 2011, David Stelzl

Marketing Requires Passion

October 11, 2011 — 1 Comment

Everyone wants one!

Passion drives the sale.  If you’re not passionate about what you are selling, change jobs.  As I prepare for next week’s Venture Tech Network conference in Las Vegas, it occurs to me that no matter how great your questions are, your references, the technology you sell, or the team behind you, if you don’t look and sound enthusiastic, the sale is dead.

I was reading a book on Disciplines over the weekend which stated, “Only 10% of employees like their job.”  10%!  That means in a group of ten people, nine don’t like what they spend most of their day doing.  This is sad.  How can these people perform at peak levels if they don’t enjoy what they do?  In fact they can’t.  The chapter went on to say that most employees are not performing well.

I can imagine that in a factory setting or some monotonous manual work regime, that the job can still be done with some level of quality, but not sales, and not marketing.  If you don’t love what you sell, move on to something else.  On the other hand, if you can find the excitement in what you do, attitude outsells skills and features every time.

How do you do this?  In my coming book, From Vendor to Adviser, I talk about people groups; the importance of figuring out the people group you want to serve in the work you do.  When you love the people you call on, work takes on a whole new meaning.  When you see your people group’s situation improving because of the value you bring them, everything changes.  Try this, stop focusing on the products you sell, and consider really taking an interest in the people you serve.  Discover their needs at a personal and business level, and see how you can remove stress from their lives by improving how they conduct business.  This brings much greater fulfillment than simply selling a widget.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Due out Next Month!

This morning I am headed out to speak to 35 sales teams calling on the top 35 retail organizations in the world – My topic, Moving From Vendor to Adviser – Capturing the Security Opportunity.  As I’ve prepared over the past several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to interview some of the top performing sales team directors to better understand how they have made their way into C-Level meetings.  I’ve used the same discovery process I recommend in my new book, From Vendor to Adviser; the same discovery process I teach sales people to use as they engage in high-end technology projects.  The results are evident – I now have the secrets of their success which I can now draw upon as I work with the entire audience (something every sales person should be doing) – an  audience that will include people from all parts of the world over Cisco Telepresence.  It’s also no surprise to me that these top performing teams are not just selling product, or responding to RFPs.  Instead I found:

  • Strategy meetings taking place at the top on a regular basis
  • Operational efficiency and risk mitigation – conducting studies and assessments
  • Speaking the client’s language and engaging with asset owners throughout the organization

These are just a few of the things I’ve been talking about for years as I work with sales teams around the world, building a more effective go-to-market strategy.  The part that was somewhat new to me was how exciting the retail business is right now with regard to technology and security.  Millions of dollars are being poured into solving problems and growing sales in ways I had not considered.  I didn’t realize that retail operations are losing 8 Billion dollars every year on inventory shortages, and that 30% of that loss is due to shoplifters, but over 60% is tagged as insider theft!  Developments in cross channel merchandizing, new forms of payment including Google Wallet, other smart phone apps, and tokenization efforts to get rid of credit card issues and PCI compliance hurdles.  Using video to study shoppers moods – which will in turn be used to customize video marketing they may be viewing in the store (this is scary technology).   And then there is the QR (Quick Reference) code hype – in England they are using these codes to pay for parking spots, but who is to stop the young entrepreneur who sees the opportunity to replace these 2D bar code stickers with their own, point to their own duplicate paysite –  Surely someone has figured this out!

© 2011, David Stelzl

How did one of my clients close a million dollar deal?

1. It started with  an event – a prospect, someone she had not done business with in the past, came to an event geared toward educating our audience on the trends and risks associated with today’s cyber criminals.

2. An assessment was done – it was complementary, but led to a greater discovery process that was fee based.  Not a million dollar assessment by any means, but capable of introducing my client to just about anyone in the company.  This took a change in the solution provider’s approach – normally they would send the engineers in to gather some data, put together some plans, and pitch it to IT.  All of this had to be changed – the sales person had to get involve with senior management; she had to put her consultant’s hat on.

3. Gathering business related information, brainstorming over the right questions along the way, and building a strategy to create justification along the way – this required figuring out exactly who would be involved in the approval process, and what politics might get in the way.  Most of this was outside my client’s  normal process – but she was willing to take the steps – take on the risk of failing in order to reach her objective.

4. Delivering the results – normally this would be emailed over to the client.  We had to change this.  Instead, she insisted on meeting with both managers and technicians.  The presentation would have been given by her engineer, but not this time.  Instead it had to be done by her.  Something she wasn’t sure she could do.  But she did.

5. In the end, they said they would take a look at it.  No immediate close, but momentum in the right direction…two weeks later, a decision was made in favor of moving forward.  What made this successful?

  • There is no guarantee – these are people, subject to every kind of inconsistency.  My client’s job was executing the plan and hoping her clients would see her value. They did.
  • The discovery process had to change – it had to be re-engineered for executives, using impact related questions.  The end result had to demonstrate impact vs. likelihood.
  • The report had to be written by non-technical people, in business language, and the presentation had to be delivered to business people by business people.

None of these things were in the sales person’s normal comfort zone – she had to step out, take a risk, and do something she had never really done.  It could have failed, but it didn’t.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Visiting Cisco in Mumbai

In a recent sales opportunity we (the seller and myself acting as a sales coach) were charged with providing a competitive quote on unified communications (UC) products.  The company already uses UC, so the quote is simply an upgrade.  The seller assembled the quote, listing all of the necessary hardware, software, and services to move their client to the latest version.  The problem here is, the proposal has no differentiation!  It’s commodity product, necessary services, and a price.  You might say your uniqueness is in your people or your certifications, or perhaps you are the go-to provider for that brand of UC.  But in this case, you don’t have a platform to demonstrate value, so no one is going to see it.  What do you do?

The answer is in the discovery process.  Most of these deals are assigned to a presales technical person.  The sales rep has simply become a relationship manager, adding no value to the deal.  The technical person is generally too technical to effectively interact with the decision maker.  So the sales person and decision maker wait on opposite sides of the deal, the sales person hoping for a “yes”, and the decision maker checking against budget and competitive quotes.  Instead of sitting on the side lines, my client and I put some business level questions together to help us uncover the business needs surrounding this upgrade.

  • How does this prospect use their current unified communications platform?
  • What applications are they using with their phones
  • How do they use collaboration technology – how could they be more efficient if they knew more about it?
  • What are they not using, that would really add to their current business process?

This list goes on, but the point is, IT can’t answers these questions.  They may have an opinion, but it won’t be accurate.  These questions are asset owner questions.  Behind them is the understanding that someone is running a department that would benefit if they knew more about the power of UC.  With this in hand, the seller now has the opportunity to compare their findings with the technical findings their engineer will come up with.  With both in hand, the seller can now advise the client on how to change the way they do business.  Chances are, if the seller spends enough time with the top producers in this company, they will discover some of the secrets behind high performing employees, tie some of this success back to technology, and find ways to improve the current process with the latest upgrades, features, and add-ons available on a UC platform.  This is what it means to provide value – an effective value proposition.

Stay tuned for next month’s Free webinar – mark you calendar for June 8, Leveraging the Discovery Process to Justify New Business.

© 2011, David Stelzl