Archives For risk mitigation

What Every Executive Needs

Every sales person must have in the forefront of their mind the impact / likelihood graph.  This is the final outcome of every discovery process.  What is the impact, and what is the likelihood of achieving gains or guarding against high-impact loss?  If you can show this in a compelling way, the chances of success go way up.

What Every Solution Provider Needs

Whether you consult, sell for a manufacturer, or resell products along with value-add services, every provider needs a strong value proposition that will precede the commodity product sale.  Once the product is in view, the value is gone.  Everything you know about the product is on Google, so demonstrate your value long before you get there.  This is done through the discovery process where value is shown in an advisory fashion.  The one who successfully demonstrates impact and likelihood wins.  Every executive needs an adviser.  In fact, they need many advisers.  You must be one of them to stay in the game.

© 2011, David Stelzl

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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

Photo taken by David Stelzl

A couple of attendees emailed questions regarding competitive advantage…following Wednesday’s Cisco sponsored webinar.  I thought it might be helpful to address this here:

(Q) Why is Operational Efficiency or Risk Mitigation easier to sell than Competitive advantage?

First, it’s important to note, I did not say you can’t sell using competitive advantage as your value proposition, but rather, operational efficiency and risk mitigation are preferable; at least to the average sales person.  Here’s why…

Companies can use technology to compete, however this type of advantage is often short lived unless the company deploys some type of unique patented technology; something their competition can’t go out and buy tomorrow.  More often than not, technology driven competitive advantage is really an operational efficiency gained by the perfection or automation of some process.  So in the end, it’s really an operational efficiency sale, that in-part, delivers competitive advantage, in addition to delivering cost efficiencies (which their competition will either adopt or find another way to accomplish).  The technology sales person’s ability to foresee such an advantage in a complex manufacturing situation (for instance) is not so likely.  (Again, speaking of the average rep calling across many verticals).

True competitive advantages are seen when a larger company has more buying power, putting others out of business by squeezing their margins such as is the case with the Home Depot stores competing with smaller hardware stores.  Wal*Mart does this by putting highly efficient distribution processes in place that are unaffordable by the average mom and pop store in your local area.  While Wal*Mart may have some unique applications in place, their infrastructure isn’t really unique, just unaffordable to smaller companies.  The process itself is key, and unique as it is cost prohibitive to the smaller company.

Operational efficiency in itself may offer competitive advantage as seen above, and the seller can use this to gain momentum on the purchase, but the efficiency is more easily articulated by the seller.  To go down the competitive advantage road with technology sales may require a deep understanding of the vertical’s market pressures.  Perhaps if the sales person has come out of that industry, they’ll have success with this.

Competitive advantages not tied to operational efficiency, which stand alone as a true advantage that cannot be duplicated, may come in the form of location such as the best corner owned by McDonalds, exclusive distribution of a product, or patented technology such as the iPad and Mac OS.  These advantages are not easily matched.  Will Dell come out with a better laptop than Mac?  Probably not (in my opinion), however they certainly have a less expensive one.   Note how first to market has earned Apple 90% of the market on tablet computers!  This won’t be easy to steal.  This is hard to match when selling commodity goods which are largely over distributed in the VAR/Reseller world.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Twelve things that define a consultative sales person

1. They improve the client’s position – a business level improvement.

2. Product is never the business driver; it is simply a tool being used in the improvement process.

3. Money is not at the center of negotiations, likelihood of successful improvement is.

4. Discovery is an integral part of the selling process; fees are not quoted until the project is understood.

5. The discovery process involves both technical and business people, and the sales person is intimately involved with each business discovery meeting.

6. The primary targets involve people who have predictable needs, not those shopping for widgets.

7. The projects show specific improvements in operational efficiency, risk levels, competitive advantage, or return on investment.  They are measureable and understood before the project is sold.

8. High-end consultants and engineers are part of the delivery process.

9. Projects are sold with a scope of work, not quoted as a line item with an associated discount.

10. They consider business people to be their peers, not IT.

11. They are continually learning, investing time in reading, and attending educational offerings.

12. They differentiate their offerings with intellectual capital, not discounts.

© 2010, David Stelzl