Recently, it occurred to me that as the communications technologies of this early part of the 21st Century emerge and take hold – some will dominate, all will evolve and some will die. But how can you know – which will do what? If components of these technologies (assembled as a solution set) will be used to solve the business communications challenges our customers face – we will need to understand what is going on. As a trusted advisor (solution seller, consultative resource, challenger seller…) to our clients, we cannot afford to be confused.
Exploring the landscape and horizon, it became clear that we are at one of those “strategic inflection points” – a phrase Andy Grove of Intel coined, in his book “Only the Paranoid Survive”. He elaborates to say “… it’s what happens to a business when a major change takes place in its competitive environment. A major change due to introduction of new technologies. A major change due to the introduction of a different regulatory environment. The major change can be simply a change in the customers’ values, a change in what customers prefer … but what is common to all of them and what is key is – that they require a fundamental change in business strategy”.
Summarily paraphrasing, a “strategic inflection point” is reached when a situation becomes so critical to our survival (as a company or in the case of this post, in our career) that it literally causes us to “change the way we think and act”.
So what does this mean to “Seller’s” of UCC solutions/services?
It means we must take steps to recognize and deal with the situation we are in!
Note: (Seller is used as an illustrative word only – customers do not want to be sold to, they want to have their business problem solved)
The 7 Steps are:
- Recognize we are at a “strategic inflection point”; you must now adapt your approach, methodology, skills and practices or die. Cloud based, UCC solutions/services will not go away – they will have some openness by virtue of the underlying technologies used, differentiation may well be the single biggest challenge – resulting in price points (profits) that are almost always in decline immediately after introduction and competitors will emerge from every corner of the Earth – including inside the account. The customer will arm themselves with data from every available source, factual or inaccurate and some of the buying decision will be made before you arrive. This will be the new norm, inescapable truths … you will have to deal with this whether you like it or not. Economics will rule the day if you cannot sell to the business challenge.
- Be able, credible and flexible in communicating the business value of the solution/service you are proposing. This can only be done when you understand the customer, spend 75% of your time on this; be conversant on what their business does, the challenges they face, and the myriad of influencers/stakeholders that will be affected by a change in the status quo. You must know this COLD and be able to communicate it to everyone in both companies if need be. Focus on solving a significant business problem – one that will bring a positive impact to their business. Be sure the client agrees unequivocally. Only then can you begin to create a unique, UCC solution tailored to their business problem. Then remain attentive and willing to change or modify as necessary – up to and thru the implementation.
- Develop & maintain a Champion (Advocate) in the account. Not just someone who will use the solution/service but someone who is willing and capable of helping you influence others. Involve them, listen to them, give them a reason to care and reward them with outstanding customer service and recognition as appropriate.
- Be willing to accept “small victories (deals)”. Perhaps even look for a place where you can get an early win/win for you and your client. As a Seller – aka the “point man”, you must recognize this first and be able to show your company/management why this makes sense. Typically these solutions/services have a longer sales cycle and a longer contractual life. So win/win’s do not come quick or easy. Up sell and renewal opportunities will be possible if you are attentive.
- Recognize that selling cloud UCC solutions/services will be as much “science as art”. You will be required to spend time with the client, provide some education, have patience, be persuasive, be educated on what is available from the marketplace, know how it will help them or not and ultimately help guide them to a good decision. Expect to have one or more factions (or people) that will always be looking for an alternative solution to YOURS. Try to identify who they are and what their win proposition is. Do your best not to alienate them. Have an account strategy and tactical engagement plan.
- Understand that everyone on your team will not recognize the “strategic inflection point” at the same time. This could be a problem if you are not wearing your customer advocacy hat as a good account manager. Your boss, your supporting technologist (sales engineer) and others who touch the customer may not be aware that a radical shift has taken place. By staying in constant touch with the client – always probe them for any sign of confusion or lack of cohesiveness that may be emanating (or perceived to be) from your company, regarding the solution/service. Never besmirch your company or team members but deal with the internal issues swiftly and delicately reposition with your client – guide them back on track and eliminate (isolate) the distractions (ors) from the sales team when possible
- Conduct frequent reviews with your client during the presale & post sale engagement process. As mentioned in #6, by staying in touch you find out things. Build a review cadence into every sales engagement. This helps avoid unexpected delays or surprises when forecasting. It also helps your credibility with management at your firm and theirs. The customer’s executive sponsor (advocate/champion) expects you to know what is going on – at his company. Remember, you won’t have any real problems, UNTIL you do these deals – expect Murphy’s Law to show up every time. Over communicate and never over commit. Be a realist, cynic and optimist.